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State pension gender gap narrows but 1.5 million women still get under £100 a week

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The state pension gender gap is narrowing official figures show, but 1.5 million women are still receiving less than £100 a week.

A report published by the Office for National Statistics showed 12.5 million people now receive the state pension with 2.5 million of those drawing the new state pension, a 650,000 increase on this time last year.

The gender state pension gap continued to close as a result, with the average income for women at £165.05 per week for new state pension and £146.70 for those on the old state pension.

This compares to average male income of £170.49 per week on the new state pension and £172.71 for the old state pension.

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said narrowing the gap was “great news” but cautioned “it’s also worth remembering that many people do not receive anywhere near the full amount”.

Just over 1.9 million people receive less than £100 per week in state pension with the vast majority, 1.5 million, of those being women. Last year 1.64 million of those receiving less than £100 a week were women.

“That shocking statistic is on the way down but shows just how many pensioners could be struggling,” said Morrissey. “Some of these people will have other pensions they can use to supplement their income but those who don’t face incredibly difficult times as the costs of essentials like fuel and food continue to soar.”

Morrissey said many of those whose state pension is on the low side could apply for pension credit, a benefit designed to top up the income of the poorest pensioners which also acts as a gateway to other benefits such as help with NHS costs and a free TV licence for the over 75s.

In June the government released data showing that over 1.4 million pensioners in Britain receive pension credit but many of those who are eligible are still not claiming this extra financial help that can be worth over £3,300 a year.

Pension credit claimants also qualify for an extra £650 cost of living payment to help them through the current crisis.

Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at interactive investor, said: “Although all pensioners on limited incomes are likely to struggle with rising costs, it is those who are entirely dependent on a less-than-full state pension, who will be particularly vulnerable to hardship as a result of rising energy bills this winter.

“Those who receive less than the full amount of state pension should check what extra help may be available to them as they may be entitled to pension credit.”

How to top up your state pension

  • Go online and check your state pension entitlement on Check your State Pension forecast. This will also tell you your state pension age.
  • Claim child benefit. women in particular miss out on valuable state pension credits when they are at home looking after children. However, if they claim child benefit, they will receive national insurace credits that count towards the state pension. Many women have missed out on this in the past because their husband claimed the child benefit rather than them. Others missed out when they opted out of child benefit after the introduction of the high-income child benefit tax charge. If you claim child benefit in your name, then you will get the NI credit towards your pension.
  • Are you under state pension age and looking after a family member under the age of 12 while their parent or main carer goes back to work? If this is the case, you could qualify for NI credits under Specified Adult Childcare Credit as the working parent essentially transfers their NI credit to you.
  • Buy NI credits. If you can spare the cash you can plug gaps in your NI record by buying voluntary class 3 NI contributions. Buying a full extra year costs around £800 but it’s worth checking with DWP before you do so to make sure you will benefit from the extra contributions.
  • Claim pension credit. If you are over state pension age and on a low income then you should check whether you are eligible for pension credit. Pension credit tops up your weekly income to £182.60 if you’re single and £278.70 in joint income if you have a partner. It also entitles you to other benefits such as help with council tax and a free TV licence. Anyone who thinks they might be eligible should go to Pension Credit: How to claim or call 0800 99 1234 for more information.

Tips from Hargreaves Lansdown