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UK State pensions are available starting from age 65 for men and age 60 for women who were born on or before April 5, 1950. If a woman is born on or after April 6, 1950, then the State Pension age will increase from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020. For both men and women, the age will increase from 65 to 68 between 2024 and 2046.
In order to claim a UK State pension, you must have built up enough “qualifying years” in which you have earned enough to pay or been credited with paying National Insurance contributions on your income. Men are currently required to have 44 qualifying years, and women are currently required to have 39 qualifying years in order to receive the full basic UK State Pension.
If you’ve been caring for children or someone long-term and haven’t paid enough National Insurance credits due to your caretaker responsibilities, you may still be eligible under the Home Responsibilities Protection. Home Responsibilities Protection can reduce the number of required qualifying years in order for you to receive the basic UK State Pension given that you reach State Pension age before April 6, 2010. If you reach State Pension age on or after April 6, 2010, the Home Responsibilities Protection is automatically being replaced with National Insurance credits.
Once you reach State Pension age, you can decide to claim your pension right away, claim it later on and receive an increased amount, or agree to a taxable one-off lump-sum payment in addition to the basic State Pension.
Your individual circumstances will dictate the amount received, but as a general guide for 2009-2010, the full basic State Pension is £95.25 a week per single person and £152.30 a week per couple.
Note that there are different rules for UK State Pension eligibility depending on your pension age. If you reach State Pension age before April 6, 2010 and you don't qualify for the full basic State Pension, you can still qualify for a weekly basic State Pension which will disburse between £23.81 per week and £95.25 per week in 2009-2010, given that you have reached 25% or more of the necessary qualifying years.
If, however, you have not reached 25% of the necessary qualifying years, you will not normally be eligible to receive basic State Pension but exceptions do apply. Always check with your local pension centre for more information on your individual circumstances.