London, United Kingdom – A retired teacher, Eileen McGrath, 85, has faced the distressing ordeal of having her pension payments halted four times because her pension provider repeatedly refused to accept that she is alive. Her pension provider, Teachers’ Pensions, which administers payments on behalf of the UK government, wrongly matched her with a deceased stranger, leaving her without income over Christmas.
McGrath expressed her frustration, stating that she had received letters asking if she was deceased, to which she immediately responded that she was very much alive. Despite her efforts, her pension was not paid four days before Christmas, and her widow’s pension payment was also stopped. It was only after she complained that both payments were eventually reinstated on January 2nd.
The Department for Education oversees Teachers’ Pensions and explained that the vetting procedure regularly checks pension beneficiaries against the death register to prevent ineligible payments. However, McGrath found the process distressing and impractical, as she was repeatedly asked to prove her existence since 2020. She also criticized the lack of clear instructions in the letters she received, which did not mention a deadline or the consequences of not responding within 28 days.
According to pension consultants, providers are expected to filter and investigate inexact matches on the death register before suspending payments. There should be a high level of certainty that someone has died before pensions are stopped. McGrath highlighted the need for a more efficient and sensitive process, especially considering the distress the situation caused her and the potential financial hardship it could cause others.
After the media raised concerns about McGrath’s case, the Department for Education stated that they would make an exception and decouple her name from the deceased individual, so she would not be contacted again regarding her status.
McGrath spoke out about the distressing experience, noting that not everyone may have enough savings to weather such incidents, and called for a more considerate and effective procedure to prevent others from enduring similar hardship.