Hundreds of new pensioners could face anxiety and stress owing to delays in payments of their state pension, campaigners have said.
The Department for Work and Pensions admitted that the pandemic and staffing issues had resulted in backlogs in payments to those turning 66.
The number of people affected is believed to be in the thousands, and officials have apologised to them.
According to one charity, the issue could have a significant impact on poorer claimants.
“It could be a disaster for people who rely on the state pension as a relatively high proportion of their income,” said David Sinclair, director of the International Longevity Centre UK.
“The potential for anxiety and stress is huge.”
Pensions Minister Guy Opperman told lawmakers that hundreds of department employees were being redeployed to deal with the payment backlog.
“We are sorry that some new state pension customers have experienced delays in receiving payment,” a DWP spokesman said.
All those affected have been identified, and we have allocated additional resources to deal with them as quickly as possible. Any claims made today should not be delayed.”
Those who have lost money should be automatically refunded, and Mr Opperman predicted that the system would be back up and running by the end of October.
Mr Sinclair stated that the incident shed light on larger issues and urged the DWP to make the pension system more automated. Those who reach state pension age must file a claim before payments begin.
He claimed that the various requirements required in the pension, tax, and benefits systems could easily confuse older people.
“For many people living on the breadline, it can be difficult to make ends meet,” Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said. “We urge the government to resolve this problem as soon as possible to ensure people who have reached their state pension age can access their money.”
Triple lock change
The DWP is already under fire and understaffed after it was revealed that an estimated 200,000 female pensioners are owed up to £2.7 billion in underpayment of state pensions due to historical errors at the department.
Earlier this week, pensioners were also informed that the “triple lock” formula for annual state pension increases would be suspended for a year.
The decision was made in response to government concerns that a large post-pandemic increase in average earnings would have resulted in an 8 percent increase in pensions.
In the 2022-23 fiscal year, the average earnings component will be ignored, with the increase based solely on the higher of the consumer inflation rate or 2.5 percent.