State Pensions

The State Pension is a regular payment from the government that you can get when you reach a certain age. How much you get depends on how much National Insurance you have paid (a tax you pay while working). The State Pension age for men is currently 65. For women, it will increase to 65 before November 2018.

People who reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016 will get a new State Pension with different rules. They will still need to have paid, or been credited with, a certain level of National Insurance contributions.

There may be times when you don’t pay National Insurance. If so, you may be able to get National Insurance credits. These cover the contributions you were unable to pay. If your income or savings are below a certain level, you may also be able to get a means-tested benefit called Pension Credit once you reach the qualifying age.

Your surviving spouse or civil partner may be able to claim bereavement benefits if you die before or after the State Pension age.

What is the State Pension?

The State Pension is a regular payment you can get from the government when you reach a certain age. How much State Pension you get depends on how many National Insurance contributions you have made. National Insurance is a tax you pay while you’re working. These contributions may help you become eligible for State Pension and some other state benefits.

If you get a war pension or financial support from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, what you’re entitled to may be different from what is explained here. Ask one of our welfare rights advisers what this means for you – call them for free on 0808 808 00 00.


State Pension age

The age you can claim your State Pension from depends on when you were born. You can check when you’ll reach State Pension age on the GOV.UK website.

The State Pension age for men is currently 65. The State Pension age for women is increasing to become 65 by November 2018.

From December 2018, the State Pension age for both men and women will start increasing in stages. It will reach:

  • 66 by October 2020
  • 67 between 2026 and 2028
  • 68 from a date that hasn’t been finalised – but it’s likely to be the mid-2030s.

If you reach State Pension age before 6 April 2016

If you reach State Pension age before 6 April 2016, there are two parts to State Pension:

  • basic State Pension
  • Additional State Pension.

Under these rules, to get the full basic State Pension you need to have made, or been credited with, at least 30 years of National Insurance contributions. If you have made fewer National Insurance contributions, you may still be able to get some State Pension, but the amount will be lower.

The most basic State Pension you can currently get is £119.30 a week. Depending on your National Insurance contribution records, you may be entitled to more. This is known as Additional State Pension.

The State Pension is changing. People who reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016 will get a new State Pension with different rules. They will still need to have paid, or been credited with, a certain level of National Insurance contributions.

If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016

A new State Pension is being introduced for people who reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016. The aim of this change is to simplify the State Pension.

You will usually need 10 years of full National Insurance contributions to get any new State Pension. The full new State Pension pays £155.65 a week. The amount you get will depend on how many years of National Insurance contributions you have made.

You don’t have to claim the new State Pension as soon as you reach State Pension age. By choosing to wait, you can get more money when you do claim it.

For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.


Pension Credit

Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for people who have reached the Pension Credit qualifying age. Means-tested means you are able to get the benefit if your income or savings, or both, are below a certain level.

Who can claim

The Pension Credit qualifying age is the same as the State Pension age for women (see above).

Pension Credit is made up of two different parts:

  • Guarantee Credit
  • Savings Credit.

Guarantee Credit increases your weekly income if it’s below a certain amount. You may get extra in some circumstances, for example if you’re a carer or have a severe disability.

Some income will not be taken into account:

  • £5 a week for single people
  • £10 a week for couples
  • £20 a week for other people, such as those who are severely disabled.

Savings Credit is a weekly payment for people who saved some money towards their retirement (for example, a personal pension).

For more information or to find out the exact date when you can claim State Pension and Pension Credit, speak to a welfare rights adviser or visit the GOV.UK website.

Changes to the State Pension (see above) will also affect Pension Credit. Most people who reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016 will not be able to get the Savings Credit part of Pension Credit.

How much you’ll get each week

The rates below show how much Pension Credit pays from April 2016–April 2017.

Rate Guarantee Credit Savings Credit

RateGuaranteeSavings Credit
Single peopleWhatever amount is needed to increase your weekly income to at least £155.60Up to £13.07
CouplesWhatever amount is needed to increase your weekly income to at least £237.55Up to £14.75

Changes to Pension Credit

People currently over the qualifying age for Pension Credit can also get Housing Benefit and tax credits. However, Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit will be replaced once Universal Credit has been introduced in all areas. This may not be until 2017. Universal Credit is for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It includes money for basic living, children and housing. It replaces other means-tested benefits and is gradually being introduced in England, Scotland and Wales. It has not yet been introduced in Northern Ireland. Once Universal Credit has been introduced, Pension Credit will be changed to include help with housing costs and bringing up a child, for those who need it.

If you want to apply for Pension Credit, visit the GOV.UK website.


Protecting your right to State Pension

There may be times when you don’t pay National Insurance, for example, because you’re off work sick, unemployed or not earning enough. In these situations, you may get National Insurance credits. These cover the contributions you were unable to pay and count towards your entitlement to the basic State Pension or the new State Pension that starts in 2016.

If you are not working because you care for children under the age of 12, care for a frail or disabled adult, or are disabled yourself, you may also be credited with some Additional State Pension (see above).

You will probably still build up National Insurance credits (and therefore basic State Pension or new State Pension) if the following applies:

  • You are unable to work because of illness or disability.
  • You are looking for work.
  • You care for someone who is ill or disabled (you must get Carer’s Allowance or care for them at least 20 hours a week). Carer’s Allowance is a benefit that helps people look after someone with serious care needs.
  • You claim Child Benefit for a child under 12 (see below). Child Benefit is for people who are responsible for a child or children aged under 16 (or under 20 in certain cases).
  • You get Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit. Working Tax Credit is a payment made to top up the earnings of people who are working but are on a low income. This benefit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit.
  • You are a man who is nearly 65 and has reached the State Pension age for women, but you don’t work or earn very much.

In other situations, periods off work will probably appear as gaps in your National Insurance record. This may reduce the amount of State Pension you eventually get. But you need 30 years (35 full National Insurance years from 2016) of National Insurance contributions and credits for a full Basic State Pension or the full new State Pension. So you may not need to worry about filling these gaps if you’ve worked for a certain number of years.

To find out about National Insurance credits, you can:

  • visit GOV.UK (if you live in England, Scotland or Wales)
  • visit nidirect (if you live in Northern Ireland)
  • call the HMRC National Insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500.


Child Benefit and State Pension

If you have a child under 12 and are not working, claiming Child Benefit could help you qualify for National Insurance credits. These credits count towards your State Pension.

If you or your partner have an individual income of more than £50,000 and one of you is entitled to Child Benefit, the person with the higher income may be affected by a tax charge called the High Income Child Benefit Charge. You can choose not to receive Child Benefit to avoid the tax bill. If you do this, make sure you still complete the claim forms even though you will receive nothing. This means you’ll still get National Insurance credits while you’re not working, which will count towards your State Pension.

For more information, call the National Insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500 (textphone 0300 200 3519).


Can I claim State Pension early?

You can’t start getting your State Pension before you reach State Pension age. But if you can’t work because of illness or caring responsibilities, or if your household income is low, you may be able to claim other state benefits instead.

Call our financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 or read our information about benefits to find out more.


If you die before or after State Pension age

If you reach your State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016, the new State Pension will be based on your own National Insurance record.

After you die, what your spouse or civil partner can inherit will depend on when:

  • you reach State Pension age
  • your spouse or civil partner reaches State Pension age.

To find out how this new rule may affect your spouse or civil partner, visit the GOV.UK website.

The rules are complicated so you can also call our financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 if you think you may be affected by this. Your spouse or civil partner may also be able to claim bereavement benefits.

Back to Pensions

Pension overview

A pension is a long-term savings plan. There are different pension schemes available.

Pension changes

Since April 2015, some types of pension have become more flexible.

Workplace pensions

A workplace pension is a pension scheme arranged through your employer. There are different types of workplace pensions.

Personal pensions

Personal pensions are often available through your workplace. But self-employed people often have them too.

Defined benefit schemes

A defined benefit scheme is when your employer promises to give you a pension when you retire.