Advice Column: Claiming Pensions
Two questions for you:
I am close to retirement age and have received a letter telling me to claim my state pension online. I don’t have a computer and don’t know how to use one. Surely there must be another way to claim my pension. Can you help?
I’ve also had a letter from the DWP telling me to switch from a Post Office account to a bank account. I am happy with my Post Office account and would rather not change. Do I have to?
Unfortunately there does seem to be an assumption that everyone has a computer or smart phone nowadays and knows how to use them!
Many government departments encourage people to claim online and don’t always make it easy to find other ways of claiming.
In England, Wales and Scotland, the Pension Service usually contacts people about 4 months before they reach state pension age.
If someone has not been contacted within 3 months of reaching their state pension age and they want to claim State Pension, they can claim by:
- Claiming online on the GOV.UK website. In order to do this, the client will need to register, or be registered, with the Government Gateway service.
- Sending a completed claim form to their local pension centre. Contact details of Pension Centres are available on the GOV.UK website. The client can get a claim form by contacting the State Pension claim line (below) or by printing it off from the GOV.UK website.
- Telephoning the State Pension claim line, who will complete a form over the telephone – Tel: 0800 731 7898 (Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm); Textphone: 0800 731 7339
Post Office card accounts
Post Office accounts work well for some people and not for others (see advantages and disadvantages below).
You can still use a Post Office card account to get your benefit, tax credit and state pension payments, but no other income. You can’t use a Post Office account for housing benefit.
The DWP are writing to people asking for them to switch to a bank account, but you can still have their benefits paid into a Post Office account if you ask.
Withdrawals can be made at any Post Office using a card and personal identification number (PIN). At the same time, an account holder can check how much money is left in her/his account. The account holder will need to keep her/his card and PIN secure. If s/he loses her/his card or suspects that someone else knows her/his PIN, s/he should inform the card issuer.
The following groups of people will not be allowed to open a Post Office card account:
- Legal appointees
- A person who needs several different people to collect benefit on her/his behalf
- A person who cannot provide a correspondence address
- A person with no fixed address.
A person who wants to open a Post Office card account will need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax credits helpline to discuss her/his banking options. The DWP or HMRC will complete an online Post Office Authorisation Document (PAD) and send it to the Post Office. The Post Office will then issue a partially-completed application form, which needs to be checked, completed and returned. When the person applies for a card account, s/he will also need to provide proof of identity and residence, for example, a recent utility bill.
A person will only be allowed to open one Post Office card account which must be in her/his name alone. Joint accounts are not allowed. If s/he receives more than one benefit, all of these will be paid into the same account.
A n account holder may apply for someone else to be given permanent access to her/his Post Office card account by means of a separate card. However, a person will not be able to ask anyone else to collect her/his money on a casual basis.
If an account holder loses her/his Post Office card, s/he should contact the Card Loss Helpline on 0800 389 2101.
Advantages of a Post Office card account
The advantages of a Post Office card account are as follows:
- accounts are easy to open although some proof of identity and residence will still be required
- accounts are not credit scored and are available to a person with a poor credit history and to someone who has been declared bankrupt
- the account cannot become overdrawn or incur bank charges
- the account holder can continue to use the Post Office to receive her/his payments direct from her/his account.
Disadvantages of a Post Office card account
The disadvantages of a Post Office card account are as follows:-
- the account can only be used for the payment of benefits, tax credits and state retirement pension and not for any other income
- the account holder will not have access to a cheque book, debit card or any credit facilities and no interest is paid on the account
- the account holder will only have access to money in her/his account at a Post Office counter during Post Office opening hours
- the account holder will not be able to pay bills by standing order or direct debit.