Almost half a million British pensioners living abroad will be left out of their pocket by up to £5,600 this year after being left out of this month’s annual state pension increase.
They include 103-year-old World War II veteran Albert Johnson, one of the last survivors of the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, and his 95-year-old wife Mary, originally from Lincolnshire and now residing in Beechboro, Western Australia.
They receive UK state pensions which are a fraction of what they would receive if they had stayed in the UK or moved to one of the other countries.
The couple are among 492,000 older Brits living abroad who are left behind by Britain’s ‘frozen pensions‘ policy. These people’s basic state pensions are not increased each year, as is the case in the UK, but remain at the level they were at when the person left, if they were already retired, or entitled to the payment, if they already lived abroad.
On April 11, all UK state pensions and most state benefits rose by 3.1%. As a result, the basic state pension rose by £4.25 to £141.85 a week, while the full new state pension rose by £5.55 to £185.15 a week.
This will give British pensioners a little more protection from the rising cost of living, but the 492,000 Brits who have emigrated or retired in countries like Australia, Canada and South Africa will not get a penny more.
Some of the oldest ‘frozen pensioners’ receive payments as low as £30-40 a week that never go up.
For example, a single pensioner who retired in late 1982, having paid full contributions, would receive £32.85 a week or £1,708 a year if his pension were frozen at that point. If they had stayed in the UK, they would now be paid £141.85 a week, or £7,376 a year.
The End Frozen Pensions campaign, run by the International Consortium of British Pensioners, says: “While we welcome the rise in UK pensions, we are very disappointed that the UK Government is allowing UK citizens living in an arbitrary list of countries continue to be treated unfairly. ”
The UK State Pension is payable abroad but is not ‘increased’ annually unless there is a legal obligation to do so – for example where there is a relevant reciprocal social security agreement.
In more than 100 countries around the world, the basic state pension in the UK does not increase every year. In addition to the three previously mentioned, these include New Zealand, Thailand and India, as well as British Overseas Territories such as the Falkland Islands.
The Johnsons believe the UK Government’s policy on the issue is unfair, especially as Albert has given “six and a half of the best years of my life”. [to] serve my country”.
In 1939 Albert – then 20 years old – was drafted into military service and sent to France with a group of other soldiers in early 1940. He was evacuated from Dunkirk and later fought in Burma (now Myanmar) for three years, where he contracted malaria and dysentery. He and Mary met after World War II when he went to work on the same farm as her.
The couple moved to Australia in 1967 when Albert was in his late 40s.
His pension was determined when he applied for the UK State Pension in 1984, when he turned 65, and received 81% of his full entitlement.
He is paid around £28 a week, while Mary’s pension is around £17 a week (her pensions are paid into her bank account monthly – he’s paid AUD 199.75 (£113.82) Australian dollars a month while she’s $119.61 received).
They also receive a fortnight’s payment from the Australian Government’s Department of Veterans Affairs for which they qualified as a result of Albert’s war service.
In a similar situation is Patricia Coulthard, who is 100 and has moved to Australia to be closer to her children during her retirement. She receives a pension frozen at £46 a week.
“I am now almost 101 years old and as I was born in Britain and served as a nurse during the Second World War it saddens me to think that the British Government does not believe I am entitled to the same support as other British pensioners who live abroad. ” She says
The Department for Work and Pensions says there is information on Gov.uk on how going abroad will affect your entitlement to a UK State Pension. It adds: “The Government’s policy of raising the UK state pension for beneficiaries living abroad has been in place for more than 70 years and we continue to increase state pensions abroad where required by law.”