Understanding the basic State Pension
The basic State Pension is paid to you by the government when you reach State Pension age. It is based on the number of qualifying years gained through National Insurance contributions (NICs) you've paid, are treated as having paid or have been credited with throughout your working life.
Do you qualify for the basic State Pension?
If you are entitled, you can get the basic State Pension when you reach State Pension age. The State Pension age for men is 65, but this will rise in the future. From 6 April 2010 women’s State Pension age started to increase gradually from age 60 to 65 so that by 2020 it will be the same as men’s State Pension age. This change will affect all women born on or after 6 April 1950.
- women born on or after 6 April 1950 but before 6 April 1955 will have a State Pension age between 60 years and one month and 64 years and 11 months
- women born on or after 6 April 1955 but before 6 April 1959 will have a State Pension age of 65
As a result of the Pensions Act (NI) 2008 the State Pension age for both men and women will increase further from 65 to 68 between 2024 and 2046.
You qualify by building up enough 'qualifying years' before State Pension age.
What are qualifying years?
A qualifying year is a tax year where you have sufficient income to pay National Insurance Contributions or are treated as having paid, or being credited with, National Insurance Contributions.
In 2013-2014, you need to have £5,668 or more of such earnings if you are an employee or £5,725 or more if you are self-employed.
To qualify for some basic State Pension a person who reaches State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010, needs just one qualifying year in their working life.
From 6 April 2010 there will be a reduction in the number of qualifying years required for a full basic State Pension. If you reached State Pension age on or after this date, the number of qualifying years required for a full basic State Pension will be 30.
How many qualifying years do you need?
From 6 April 2010, the number of qualifying years needed for a full basic State pension was reduced from 39 for women and 44 for men to 30 for both men and women. For people reaching State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010, the two existing contribution conditions will be replaced by a new single contribution condition.
The new condition is that in your working life, you must have paid or be treated as having paid, or have been credited with enough Class 1, 2 or 3 contributions to achieve 30 qualifying years. If the condition is not met in full, entitlement will be 1/30th of the full basic State Pension for each qualifying year achieved with entitlement being expressed as a fraction between 1/30th and 30/30ths, depending on the number of qualifying years.
If you have more than 30 qualifying years, entitlement will be restricted to 30/30ths.
If you've been a parent or carer
If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010 you may be able to get National Insurance credits. These credits allow you to build entitlement to the State Pension. You may be eligible for Carer's credits if you are:
- a parent with a dependent child under 12 years of age
- an approved foster carer
- caring for at least 20 hours per week for one or more severely disabled people
Up until 5 April 2010 if you hadn't paid enough NICs because you were looking after children or caring for someone long-term, you may have been eligible for Home Responsibilities Protection. Home Responsibilities Protection was replaced with Carer's Credit from 6 April 2010. Years of Home Responsibilities Protection built up before 6 April 2010 will count as qualifying years of Carer's Credit.
If you've been claiming benefit
If you've been receiving certain benefits, such as Carer's Allowance, Jobseeker's Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance – ‘contribution’ based (if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions), you'll have automatically received National Insurance credits for the weeks when you've been claiming.
How much is the basic State Pension?
In 2013-2014, the full basic State Pension is £110.15 a week for a single person and £176.15 a week for a couple, but your individual circumstances may affect the amount you get.
If you don't qualify for the full basic State Pension
If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2010
If you don't qualify for the full basic State Pension, but have 25 per cent or more of the qualifying years, you'll get a weekly basic State Pension between the minimum (£27.54 in 2013-2014) and the maximum (£110.15 in 2013-2014).
If you have fewer than 25 per cent of the qualifying years, you're not normally entitled to receive any basic State Pension. However, you can get a 'non-contributory' or 'Over 80 Pension' if you're aged 80 or more and meet the residency conditions. This is £66.00 a week for 2013-2014.
If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010
If you don’t qualify for the full basic State Pension, but have some qualifying years, you will get one thirtieth of the full amount for each qualifying year.
You can get more information from the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.
If you are or have been married or in a civil partnership you may be entitled to some basic State Pension through the National Insurance record of either:
- your spouse or civil partner
- your former or late spouse or civil partner
If you're a pensioner and living in Northern Ireland, Pension Credit could top up your weekly income to a guaranteed minimum of:
- £145.40 if you're single
- £222.05 if you're a couple
Since April 2010 the age when you can claim Pension Credit is gradually increasing from 60 to 65 in April 2020.
Claiming your State Pension
The Northern Ireland Pension Centre should automatically send you a letter on how to claim your State Pension four months before you reach State Pension age.
If you haven't received this letter three months before your birthday, you can:
- telephone the Northern Ireland Pension Centre to make a claim
- download, print, fill in claim form and send it to the Northern Ireland Pension Centre
- if you have speech or hearing difficulties, a textphone service is available
- Northern Ireland Pension Centre - State Pension (contacts section)
- Download State Pension claim form (PDF 366 KB)
- Help with PDF files
How the State Pension is paid
Direct Payment into an account is the Social Security Agency’s normal way of paying pensions and benefits. It is a safe, convenient and efficient method of payment.
Putting off claiming your State Pension until later
You don't have to claim your State Pension as soon as you reach State Pension age. If you wish, you can defer claiming it and get a higher weekly amount or the option of a one-off taxable lump sum payment instead.
If you are thinking about deferring your State Pension you need to consider how the changes to State Pensions from April 2010 may affect your decision.
What to do if your circumstances change
You should tell the Northern Ireland Pension Centre if:
- you go into or come out of hospital
- you go abroad to live or for a long visit
- you go into a care home
- Northern Ireland Pension Centre (contacts section)
- Pensions abroad