Historic claim on refugee and pensioner incomes is still wrong

8 April 2022
What was claimed

The maximum state pension in the UK is £141 while in Germany it’s £507.

Our verdict

The full state pension in the UK is between £141.85 and £185.15 a week. The German system doesn’t have a maximum, and isn’t a flat rate, but a points system dependent on earnings.

What was claimed

Illegal immigrants and refugees living here get an annual income of £29,900.

Our verdict

Illegal immigrants who don’t have leave to remain in the UK can’t claim most benefits and destitute asylum seekers can only get £40.85 a week. Refugees can claim benefits but are subject to the benefits cap, which is far below £29,900 per year.

A post on Facebook with almost 30,000 shares makes the following claims: “The maximum state pension in the uk is £141 weekly,germany is £507[...]If a British old age pensioner contributes for 45 years to 60 years they get a toatal [sic] yearly income of £6000.. illegal immergrants [sic] /refugees living in Britain get a total yearly income of £29,900”.

The post is from 2020 but has recently gone viral again. And it’s mostly wrong. 

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The post claims that the “maximum” state pension in the UK is £141 per week and £6,000 a year for pensioners who have contributed “45 to 60 years”.

This is on the lower end of the full state pension. Although it depends on factors like your National Insurance record and age, at the time of writing, the full state pension is between £141.85 and £185.15 a week (or £7,376 and £9,627 a year). When this post was first shared in 2020, it was £134.25 to £175.20.

Pensioners who have contributed “45 to 60 years” to National Insurance are likely to collect much more than the £6,000 claimed as you usually only need 30 qualifying years to get the full amount.

This doesn’t include other benefits some pensioners are also entitled to, like pension credit, free prescriptions, TV licences and winter fuel payments. Many also receive a private pension that both they and their employer contributed to throughout their working life.

We’ve checked similar viral posts on both the Germany UK pension comparison before.

As we wrote then, there also isn’t a statutory maximum pension in Germany. This £507 figure for Germany seems to be in the right ballpark, but it’s very difficult to compare state pensions internationally because the systems are so different. While the German system is calculated by a points system and is dependent on earnings, the UK’s system is essentially a flat rate depending on age and years of contribution.

What do average pensions in Germany and the UK look like?

According to the German pensions body Deutsche Rentenversicherung, the average state pension amount in 2020 was €1,249 a month (or £1,110) for those with 35 years of social security contributions.

It’s not a perfect comparison, but according to the Department for Work and Pensions, pensioners receive on average £192 a week from their state pension (£832 a month) in 2020/21. This is higher than the basic state pension amounts above, probably partly because some people may defer claiming, which boosts the amount they are eventually paid.

But the average weekly income for UK pensioners is much higher than this. If you include income from other benefits, personal pensions and investments, the average income for all UK pensioners before was £393 a week, or £1,703 a month in 2020/21.

German older people do get a higher percentage of their income from state pensions and benefits than Brits, if you exclude income from earnings. But Germany also spends much more than the UK on state pensions and benefits. 

Benefits for refugees 

We’ve checked this £29,900 figure for “illegal immigrants/refugees” multiple times before, and first saw it over 10 years ago.

People who have entered the UK illegally and have not received the right to remain in the UK, or whose permission to stay has ended, by their very nature not allowed to claim most benefits.

People who are claiming asylum, if eligible, can get a place to live (which is unlikely to be in London or south east England) and £40.85 a week and between £3 and £5 a week extra if they are pregnant or have children. They are usually not allowed to work. 

Those who are refused asylum may still get this after the final decision is made until they leave the UK, if their household includes children under 18. They may also still claim £40.85 a week if the Home Office agrees there is an obstacle to them leaving the UK, but only if they also need accommodation.

And those who have successfully applied for asylum (and have received refugee status) can apply for benefits. But we don’t recognise the £29,900 figure in this post. It is significantly higher than the benefits cap that applies to most people, even looking at single parents in London with dependent children (which is £23,000 a year).

Image by Egor Myznik via Unsplash.

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