Money Grouse: Penalised for being too young at 54

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The Independent Online
PAM SMYTH, from Manchester, left her local authority job in 1990 to care for her husband Tom, who was terminally ill. As a nurse, she was able to look after him without help from the social services. Her husband died last November, aged 71.

Mrs Smyth will not receive a full widow's pension even though her husband had a full National Insurance contribution record, which would normally entitle her to receive the full amount - currently pounds 54.15 a week plus earnings-related additions. Because her husband was several years older than her, she is effectively penalised.

Under social security regulations brought in from April 1988 the widow's pension is reduced by 7 per cent for every year that the wife is under 55 at the time when her husband dies.

'As I was aged 54 when my husband died, I can only receive a 93 per cent pension,' says Mrs Smyth. Her husband's funeral was on the very day of her 55th birthday.

The reduction in widow's pension might seem justifiable where a husband has remarried a much younger woman shortly before his death. Pam Smyth was married to her husband for 36 years.

Mrs Smyth believes many other women married to older husbands may be penalised in the same way.

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