Helping to prevent mothers from ending up with reduced state pensions

4 min read


Our petition aimed to help stop thousands of mothers across the UK ending up with lower state pensions

We've previously spoken about a problem affecting thousands of families as a result of child benefit rule changes that took place in 2013. As well as making sure members are aware of the issue, and that they (and their family members) can take steps to avoid the problem, in 2018 we launched a campaign to try to get the rules changed.

What’s the problem?

The problem came about as a result of the introduction of the High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge in January 2013. Under this scheme, where one parent in a family receiving child benefit earns more than £50,000 a year, the higher earner is sent a tax bill. The size of the tax bill depends on how much they earn, but if they earn £60,000 or more, then the tax bill wipes out the value of the child benefit that’s being paid to the family.

Why is it so important?

Since 2013, tens of thousands of parents – mostly mothers – have responded by not claiming child benefit. They’ve decided that having one parent receiving child benefit and another parent getting a tax bill of the same amount is a bit of a waste of time. The problem is that by opting out of the child benefit system, they’re missing out on valuable National Insurance credits that help to protect their National Insurance record for periods when they’re out of paid work – to look after their children, for example. As a result, we think that many tens of thousands of mothers could be looking at a reduced income in retirement unless something is done.

We’re particularly concerned about this because there are strict rules on how far child benefit claims can now be backdated. Even mothers who become aware of the issue now may find that they’ve lost out on years of credits towards their pension and can do nothing about it.

Changing the system

With so much evidence that women tend to end up in retirement with poorer pensions than men, we think it’s vital that the Government tackles this entirely avoidable problem, which could make matters worse. So we placed a petition on the Parliament website calling on the Government to make two changes:

  1. To lift the strict limits on backdating, so that when parents become aware of what they’ve lost they can make a claim back to 2013 if necessary.
  2. To use birth registers and other information to identify the mothers who are missing out and actively contact them, rather than wait until they find out about the problem themselves.

The petition closed in May 2019 and received almost 14,000 signatures. You can read the Government's response on the petition website

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