DWP admits “significant problem” with pension forecast tool


Errors in an online platform devised by the government for UK citizens to check the status of their pension means users are being fed misleading information.

An online pensions dashboard, hosted on government systems, is suffering from a "significant problem" that means it cannot properly assess individuals with complex work histories where they have transferred between benefits schemes.

For approximately 3% of forecasts delivered, or 360,000 of the 12 million that have been viewed using the tool, the system feeds out information that can be misleading and disrupt retirement plans, according to pensions minister Guy Opperman MP.

In a letter to former minister Steve Webb, who has uncovered the issue with This is Money, the minister admitted to a glitch in the system that has undermined the government's own efforts to promote the Check your State Pension' tool.

"Analysis has identified that currently no more than 3% of people will be impacted by the issue you have raised. It is also important to note that omission or errors will be rectified before they retire," he wrote.

"However, I nonetheless recognise there is a significant problem here.

"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."

In order to rectify the issue staff are being asked to intervene and manually correct records on paper, working with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to update individuals' work histories and provide a revised forecast. These are then fed back into the online portal where their records are changed.

"We are aware that a small proportion of online State Pension forecasts may have been affected by errors," a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson told IT Pro.

"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."

With forecasts wrong by up to 1,500, according to Webb, the errors in the system represents a significant blow to the department after its significant efforts to promote the online platform.

Although, the DWP isn't isolated when it comes to government departments suffering glitches to its IT systems. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was also left similarly embarrassed last year when its payroll system was found to not be able to handle paying military personnel their bonuses.

Only after promising to offer a third of all military personnel a pay increase through a bonus scheme did officials realise the online payroll system didn't allow for one-off payments.

The NHS, meanwhile, last year discovered glitches in an IT system used by thousands of GPs that left thousands of health records out of date. This posed "significant" clinical risk to patients at the time.

Pensions minister Guy Opperman has pledged to improve the data quality of the DWP's online pensions tool, despite admitting "there will always be a residual level of error in the system".

Officials will now explore options to enhance the accuracy of the information held with national insurance records, and how this is used to forecast a state pension.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.