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Briton in France had pension stopped over life certificate mix-up

The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions said it had not received the required proof of existence when in fact it had

A British resident of France discovered that his pension had been stopped because of a DWP mix-up Pic: chrisdorney / Shutterstock

A British retiree living in France has told of his distress to find his UK pension had been stopped after the Department for Work and Pensions failed to register receipt of a life certificate he had sent them..

What is a life certificate? 

Life certificates, also known as a ‘Declaration of Existence’ or a CF(N)698 form are periodically sent out by pension providers to check that a recipient is still alive and well enough to handle their own affairs, living in the same place and receiving the correct amount in payments. 

UK state pensioners over the age of 75 will receive one every two years, while younger pensioners will receive one sporadically. 

Pensioners are required to fill them in the presence of an independent witness such as a bank clerk, social worker, local council worker or solicitor, and send them back to avoid losing their pension. 

In France, especially in rural communes, the easiest way of doing so is to take it to the mairie and ask the mayor, an assistant or the secretary to sign and stamp the form with the commune seal.

‘Stopped with zero notice’

David Elliott, 73, who lives in Plougasnou (Finistère), was sent a life certificate on December 12, 2021, which he sent back with recorded delivery after having it witnessed at his local mairie. The letter was received by the DWP on January 20, confirmed with a tracking number. 

However, “I was expecting my state pension in April but when I went to my letterbox I found a letter postmarked in the Netherlands containing a letter from the DWP dated two weeks before retrospectively stopping my pension,” he told The Connexion.

The letter said that payments were being stopped because Mr Elliott had not responded to the life certificate sent to him. 

“I was staggered. My direct debits go out at the beginning of the month and bouncing them would have cut off my route to credit,” he said.

The letter had taken over two weeks to reach Mr Elliott, who said: “You would think that if they were going to stop my pension, they would give at least a month’s notice. 

“But due to saving just a few pennies by mailing via the Netherlands, I got zero notice.”

Mr Elliott rang the DWP and was told that the life certificate was indeed in his file. His pension was then reinstated but he said the staff member he spoke to could give no explanation as to why it had been stopped. 

“I can well imagine old and frail people being tipped over the edge when their pension is suddenly stopped. The letter ominously states ‘There is no right of appeal against this decision,’” he added.

The Connexion contacted the DWP for comment on the subject, and a spokesperson said: 

“This year we will spend over £100billion on the state pension and our priority is ensuring every pensioner receives the financial support to which they are entitled. 

“Where errors do occur, we are committed to identifying and rectifying them as quickly as possible.”

There are about 67,000 UK state pensioners living in France according to the DWP, and all of them should be sent life certificates from time to time. This means that tens of thousands will be posted across the Channel every year.

In 2017 thousands of pensioners who had filled in life certificates received letters in error saying their pensions were being stopped. At the time the DWP said that this was due to a computer bug.

If you are living abroad and experience problems with your UK state pension, you should call the DWP’s international office on 01912 187777.

You can also share your experiences with The Connexion at news@connexionfrance.com

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