UK State pension rules discriminate between Caribbean retirees

Unfair state pension rules are denying cash to pensioners living in some Caribbean countries, while granting it to others, new figures have revealed.

The scale of the divide was revealed after Baroness Floella Benjamin asked welfare reform minister Lord Freud about state pension payments to people resident in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Baroness-Floella-Benjamin

Baroness Floella Benjamin

It emerged that the 19,000 people in Jamaica receiving the basic state pension get an average of £82.57 a week while the 1,590 people in Trinidad and Tobago receiving the basic state pension get an average of only £44.02 a week.

The disparity is caused by the policy of not uprating the state pension for inflation for recipients living in certain countries. Other Caribbean countries where the state pension is not uprated include Grenada, St Lucia and Dominica.

John Markham, Director UK Parliamentary Affairs for the International Consortium of British Pensioners said: “These figures clearly show how the policy of frozen pensions leads to arbitrary discrimination between pensioners depending on where they choose to live. Many people from the Caribbean have contributed to the United Kingdom, including by serving in the armed forces and helping to rebuild the country after the Second World War. They paid their National Insurance contributions the same as pensioners residing in the UK and EU and it’s time the government rectified this unfair and immoral policy.”

When Baroness Benjamin asked Lord Freud why the government uprates the state pension for recipients in Jamaica, but not Trinidad and Tobago, he answered: “Uprating of state pension only occurs where there is a bilateral social security convention in force with another country. The United Kingdom has operated these conventions since the 1950’s and 15 contain reciprocal arrangements allowing for the uprating of state pension, among them Jamaica.

“The United Kingdom has not entered into a social security convention with Trinidad and Tobago. Since 1981, it has been the policy of successive Governments not to seek to enter into new reciprocal agreements with other countries covering social security benefits.”

However, the UK entered into a reciprocal agreement with Barbados in 1992, 11 years after the cut-off date that Lord Freud referred to.