The state pension was transformed on 6th April this year - moving from a basic pension plus a top up for some people, to a 'flat rate' state pension for everyone. There has been a lot of talk about the fact that over the short term, transitional arrangements mean huge swathes of the retiring population won't get the full flat rate pension. However, there will be thousands of pensioners that for the first time won't just get less - they'll get nothing at all.
Those who will slip through the net for the first time are the 70,000 people who don't have enough National Insurance contributions to qualify for any state pension. Age UK says this includes 50,000 women and 20,000 men currently in their 50s and 60s.
Under the old rules, there was no qualifying minimum number of years of National Insurance contributions before you get some state pension - so people who only worked for a few years got something. Under the new rules, anyone with fewer than ten years of contributions will receive nothing at all.
Age UK is warning that many of those who are affected have no idea they won't be getting a state pension. Age UK's Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams, says: "Many people in their fifties and sixties are completely unaware of how they will be affected."
In order to qualify for the full flat rate state pension they will need even more years of contributions: under the old scheme you needed 30 years of contributions to get the full amount, whereas under the new scheme you need 35.
Transitional arrangements also mean that many thousands more won't get the full flat rate state pension, because they 'contracted out' of the state pension top up scheme for a period of their working life (which includes those in public sector pension schemes). The government is reflecting these periods of 'contracting out' with lower pension payments.
In total, it expects two thirds of those reaching state pension age between April this year and the following April to get less than the 'flat rate'. The average shortfall is set to be around £25 a week.
What can you do?
Abrahams says: "There is evidence suggesting that some people in this age group are so worried about what their finances will be once they retire that they are reluctant to think about it at all, but our strong advice is to take action now to find out exactly where you stand."
The charity is urging anyone affected (women born on or after 6 April 1953 and men born on or after 6 April 1951) to request a pension statement from the government, and seek help from a charity like Age UK if they don't understand what they are set to receive.
The good news is that if you find out where you stand in plenty of time, you may be able to do something about your position. If, for example, you have insufficient National Insurance contributions because you were not working - or were on a lower salary - you may be able to pay a lump sum to buy some of the years you missed - which could take you to the threshold. Alternatively you may be able to make a claim for National Insurance credits - such as the carer's credit.
While all these changes are worrying, and it's very tempting just to hide your head in the sand, finding out where you stand gives you the best chance of making the most of your state pension when you eventually come to retire.