WPC enquires about DWP’s plan for handling state pension underpayments

The Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) has sent a letter the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) permanent secretary, Peter Schofield, enquiring about the department’s plans to deal with state pension underpayments.

The letter, which was signed by the WPC chair, Stephen Timms, and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair, Meg Hiller, asked questions of the government’s approach in two main areas: communication with pensioners who need to take action and the progress in tackling cases.

Referencing screenshots of DWP internal documents, the letter mentioned perceived faults in the way the department communicated with those pensioners potentially affected, stating: “The PAC concluded that these people needed clearer information to act, or risk, missing out on significant sums.”

The letter then posed three questions to the government, namely what the status of the documents quoted in the Westminster Confidential report was, how the government will evaluate the effectiveness of the revised information in helping those who may be affected understand their position and take appropriate action, and enquiring on the government’s plans to review its communication strategy and act if needed.

On progress in tackling cases, the letter also mentioned a previous conclusion from the PAC that the DWP had not been sufficiently transparent to parliament and the committee’s recommendation for periodic updates on the speed of processing of the backlog.

In light of this recommendation, the letter asked for the department’s plan, including any interim targets, for completing the Legal Entitlements and Administrative Practices (LEAP) exercise by the end of 2023, and the average and longest amounts of time that pensioners who have got in contact can expect to wait for a response.

The letter asked to receive a reply to their questions by the 12 May.

Commenting, a DWP spokesperson said: A DWP spokesperson said: "The action we are taking now will correct the historical underpayments that have been made by successive governments and we have set up a dedicated team and devoted significant resources towards completing this.

"We will respond to the committees' letter formally in due course."

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