Kristine Finnegan, 81, has not seen her state pension increase in 11 years and has spoken out about her struggle amid the rising cost of living. As she lives in Australia, her state pension is frozen at £142.54 a week.
According to the End Frozen Pensions Campaign, this directive means 520,000 Britons living abroad will have their pensions set at the amount they had when they decided to leave the UK or an eligible country.
Countries eligible for an upgrade include:
– The United Kingdom
– The European Economic Area (EEA)
– Countries with a social security agreement with the UK – but not with Canada or New Zealand.
Ms. Finnegan began working as a cadet nurse at the age of 16 before qualifying as a registered nurse and midwife.
She lived and worked in the UK for decades before moving overseas to various European countries including France where she received her full state pension.
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After her husband died, she decided to move to Australia in 2011 to be closer to her eldest son, but then discovered her state pension would be frozen.
Ms Finnegan explained: “I got married at 28 when I was still living in France. My husband did all the math as an accountant, but when he died I had to delve into the middle of what wasn’t so inclined.
“I don’t remember hearing about my pension being frozen and if it was it wasn’t really registered because it was just a small detail in the big plan that my husband died and my life was turned upside down .
“Now I’m here and I’m realizing how much less money I’m getting – especially with the looming recession. I was very angry.”
Ms Finnegan’s husband voluntarily paid Social Security contributions regardless of where the couple chose to live in order to increase his state pension total.
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She explained that he also pays into a private pension, but that he had to withdraw it when he lost his job in his late 50s.
Unfortunately, she no longer has that sum to rely on, which has severely strained her finances.
However, living in different countries around the world has highlighted differences for Ms. Finnegan when it comes to state pension increases.
The full new state pension is currently £185.15 a week but Ms Finnegan isn’t enough as her total is frozen.
The pensioner continued: “When I lived in France I received the full rate of the UK state pension. I wonder where does this part of my pension go? It feels like it’s been stolen from me.
“The Commonwealth countries are missing out and it just all seems pretty strange. We have so many things going on – utility bills, rising prices. We only want what the others have. We paid into Social Security and we want what’s ours.
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“We are not asking for back payment or more money as pensioners resident in the UK or outside the UK. We just want the same thing – we don’t want to be the poor relatives. It just feels like a real lack of equality.”
Ms Finnegan’s figure of £142.54 a week would increase if she returns to live in an eligible country.
In fact, the pensioner stressed that she will receive the full amount if she visits her family in the UK.
However, she argues that living in Australia means she loses almost 50 pounds a week in real terms, causing problems in the current climate.
Ms Finnegan explained: “My English pension is falling largely because of the challenges in the UK. But the cost of living is rising: my gas bill is increasing and my supermarket is eating up more of my income than normal.
“I don’t use my heating, I put on my electric blanket or go under my blanket with a wool hat – I can’t afford to turn the heating on.
“I’m not suffering and I’m healthy, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for people in a more challenging situation.”
Ms Finnegan is calling for Prime Minister Liz Truss and her new government to reconsider the frozen state pensions policy.
She hopes there will be some movement on the matter, which will result in UK pensioners receiving the normal rate of state pension, no matter where in the world they live.
She concluded: “There are some people like me who have moved closer to their family abroad because we are getting older and we need that support.
“But this kind of politics essentially prevents us from doing that. It’s hard to imagine the UK government doing something so terrible.
“I would like to see this government do something, but if we had a new government, perhaps from a different party, something could be done on this matter. We’re just trying to do our best in this whole situation and we want the government to listen to us.”
A DWP spokesman told Express.co.uk: “We understand that people move abroad for many reasons and that this can have an impact on their state pension.
“The Government’s policy of increasing the UK State Pension for expatriate beneficiaries has been in place for more than 70 years and we continue to increase the State Pension abroad where required by law.”