The Pensions Minister made the admission in a letter written to Royal London policy director, Steve Webb, who had asked him to undertake a “root cause analysis” in order to find out if there was a systematic problem relating to the incorrect statements. Government figures suggest that more than 12 million State Pension forecasts have been issued since 2016. The Minister’s letter, dated May 31, 2019, said that up to three per cent of these forecasts may be erroneous, due to problems with HMRC data. The “Check your State Pension” calculator uses your information to provide a State Pension forecast.
Members of the public have reported receiving online statements which are inconsistent with earlier written statements, with the online version being incorrect, as identified by the This is Money website in partnership with Mr Webb.
In some cases, new forecasts were more than £1,5000 higher than had previously been expected.
These cases were raised with the Department for Work and Pensions, who initially said the instances were isolated error which had since been corrected.
Confirming that the analysis has identified that no more than three per cent of people will be impacted by the issue, Mr Opperman added: “It is also important to note that omission or errors will be rectified before they retire.
“However, I nonetheless recognise there is a significant problem here.”
The Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion went on to state that some people may find a difference in the online forecast, and one they may receive on paper.
The Minister’s reply indicates those who have been members of Defined Benefit pension schemes with “complex” work histories have the greatest risk of an incorrect forecast.
“Those with a particularly complex work history, where they have transferred between defined benefits schemes, may find that there is a difference between their online forecast and any paper forecast they receive, as was the case in the example you provided,” he wrote.
The MP explained that it is in these cases where the online version has had an error, so staff have intervened to ensure the paper version is correct.
Mr Opperman also pointed out that the number of cases where corrective action ahead of State Pension age has been required has reduced from 10 per cent of claims in 2013 – 2014, to three per cent in 2018 – 2019.
The Minister addressed the need to “continue to improve data quality”.
“Therefore, I have asked officials to explore options to further enhance the accuracy of the information held with National Insurance records and how we use that information to calculate a person’s State Pension Forecast,” Mr Opperman wrote.
Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London said of the findings: “People are increasingly encouraged to use online services to help plan their retirement, and the new pensions dashboard will rely heavily on such data.
“It is therefore very worrying that hundreds of thousands of people may have received incorrect state pension forecasts and in some cases will have taken decisions about their retirement plans on the basis of incorrect information.
“Now that the Government is aware of the scale of the problem, it must put an urgent stop to the issuing of incorrect statements.
“Individuals need to have confidence that the information they receive from the government is accurate and should not have to live with the uncertainty that a statement they have already received may be seriously incorrect.”
A DWP Spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are aware that a small proportion of online State Pension forecasts may have been affected by errors.
“We apologise to those affected for the inconvenience. Our officials are working urgently with HMRC to make sure this problem is resolved as quickly as possible.”