UK gov't to boost pensions for Kindertransport refugees

"We can help the Kindertransport through a relatively simple change to UK pensions law," says Minister for Pensions Reform Mike O'Brien.

kindertransport 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
kindertransport 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of Kindertransport refugees who fled to Britain from Germany before World War II are set to receive a boost to their state pensions, Minister for Pensions Reform Mike O'Brien announced on Monday. Stripped of their German nationality, around 10,000 children came as refugees to Britain from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia on Kindertransport before the outbreak of the Second World War. Those that entered into manual occupations in the UK when they reached the age of 16 fell under the pre-1948 social insurance arrangements. Some of the refugees subsequently returned to Germany while others remain in the UK. In the 1990s, the German state pension system was opened up to the Kindertransport enabling those without German insurance contributions to buy in to the German system. However, the time spent paying into the UK system pre-1948 had the effect of reducing entitlement to their German pension, due to pan-European rules on how periods of insurance in different countries affect each other. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has tabled an amendment to the current Pensions Bill which would wipe the UK pre-1948 credits from their national insurance records, thereby boosting the value of their German pensions. "Following representations from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and [Home Office Minister] Tony McNulty, I met with Hermann Hirschberger [a leading campaigner on the issue] and the board chairman Henry Grunwald. I also discussed the matter with representatives of the German Government," O'Brien said. "We can help the Kindertransport through a relatively simple change to UK pensions law which will enable the German authorities to pay out higher pensions." "I am very optimistic that after many years of struggle, the legal jungle stopping full pension payments for a number of ex-refugees is being resolved, primarily by the enlightened approach of Mike O'Brien and his department, the help of my MP, Tony McNulty, and the board. Justice will prevail," Hirschberger said. The minister said that this was the result of many months of negotiations with the German government. "It's right we help this group of people. Many of them lost members of their family in the Holocaust. They survived because they were sent to Britain as children. They stayed and worked here. A legal restriction has prevented them claiming the money due to them from the German government. After detailed negotiations over several months we have now found a way forward," he said. "This is a small but important step for those people involved - 150 of them are known to us and we expect others to come forward now. Removing some of their UK National Insurance contributions will not affect their entitlement in this country but will enable higher payments to be made under German law," he added. The House of Lords debated the amendment on July 17 and agreed that it should form part of the Pensions Bill. Once the Bill has received Royal Assent [from the Queen] it will be possible for the government to change the national insurance records for Kindertransport refugees. German officials have co-operated with the DWP on this work. "This is an important development and a tribute to Mr Hirschberger's determination, tenacity and sense of justice on behalf of the Kindertransport," Grunwald said. "We endorse his efforts and hope this new development will bring about the just resolution that the cause deserves. Mike O'Brien and his colleagues have shown once again that where there is a will, there is a way, and they have found the way to deal with a real injustice." The DWP has details of many of the people affected and said they will be writing to them shortly. The department is also encouraging anyone who thinks they might benefit from this amendment to the Pensions Bill to contact the DWP International Pension Center, telephone: +44 (0)191 218 7777.