All State Pension claims and reported change of circumstances from trans and Gender Recognition customers are handled by specific teams within the Pensions, Carers and Disability Service (PDCS). There is a single point of contact within PDCS for receipt and retention of all State Pension correspondence from trans people.
Any correspondence, whether it be a claim form or any other documents, are dealt with in a secure environment. The receipt and transfer of correspondence is carried out using sealed courier pouches among nominated officers only and case papers are kept in locked drawers at all times. As access to transgender cases is restricted; PDCS is unable to accept State Pension claims over the telephone and all such customers are required to complete a paper claim form.
Where a National Insurance record is held as ‘nationally sensitive”, such as those of trans people, it is not included in the automatic State Pension claims invite exercise. Instead the section within HM Revenue & Customs that deals with nationally sensitive records notifies PDCS of the rate of State Pension to which the customer would be eligible four months before State pension age which prompts the issue of a claim pack. Additionally, a claim pack will be issued following notification that a person has obtained a full Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
The rules on substitution and entitlement to a lower rate pension (Category BL) based on the National Insurance record of a spouse or civil partner are applied to trans people in the same way as any other customer. Where a person divorces and then forms another legal relationship i.e. marriage or civil partnership only the current legal status is considered when determining State Pension entitlement.
This is one of the areas in which people who believe they can seamlessly translate a marriage into a civil partnership after grant of a GRC may be very disappointed if they are born before April 6th 1950. They will find that the current regulations deny the couple any substitution or Category B pension rights.
The ‘living together’ test
The ‘living together’ test in Pension Credit is applied if two adults reside in the same household, irrespective of gender. The situation is considered by decision-makers on the basis of information relating to the relationship of the individuals concerned and the circumstances in which they live. Before the passage of Civil Partnership Act, 2004, the test was not applied to individuals of the same sex. This was because there was no legal basis for such an ‘association’ to exist. However, since the passage of that Act it has been possible for two people of the same gender to be treated as a couple, regardless of whether or not they have undergone a Civil Partnership ceremony.
The test is applied equally to a married couple who divorce and form a civil partnership following the granting of a Gender Recognition Certificate to one or both members, where they continue to share a household. Basically the treatment of any couple who share a household is the same, or can be, regardless of sex, marital or civil partnership status.
The decision is subjective and is based on a number of ‘lifestyle’ facts obtained usually at a home visit. There would be no presumption that because a married couple had divorced but continue to share the same household that they continue to live as if they were a married, unmarried or civil partnership couple or equally that they do not.
The Department for Works and Pensions will consider whether or not to apply the test on the basis of who is present in the household and whether those present are able to establish a valid legal relationship i.e. marry or form a civil partnership.
So, for example, the test would not be applied to a person who lives with their sibling or child, as the test looks to treat people who are not married or in a civil partnership in the same way as those who are. Leaflet INF3 is issued to people subject to the test. It sets out what issues are considered when applying the test and the reasons for looking at their domestic arrangements.
The question on page 2 of the State Pension claim form, BR1, concerning current marital or civil partnership status has led to some concern being voiced by some trans customers. However, this is designed to allow the Department for Works and Pensions to determine whether a person would be eligible for a pension or enhancement based on the contributions of a current, former or late spouse or civil partner.
These are known as derived rights. Concerns have been allayed when they have been advised that the forms are generic and designed to capture all circumstances. In addition although the answers to these questions may “out” a person with a GRC the security arrangements in place ensure that this material has a very restricted distribution and is held securely.
There have not as yet been any complaints or correspondence regarding the similar questions on the pension credit application form. The questions about previous names are designed to ensure that the customer’s correct National Insurance record has been correctly identified. The questions were not designed or used specifically for trans or Gender Recognition cases. Prior to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 the questions were primarily used to identify changes in name in the case of married and/or divorced women whose National Insurance record had not been updated and where there may have been several name changes.