The Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman has intervened to speed up responses to complaints from the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) movement.
As part of a legal campaign, thousands of women from across the country have submitted, and continue to submit, complaints against the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) regarding what they call an inadequate communication of changes to the state pension age.
Waspi claims that while the 1995 Conservative government's Pension Act included plans to increase the women’s state pension age to 65 – the same as men's – the changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice.
The group also claimed that the changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act and left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.
The progress on these complaints, submitted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), has been slow, with many women reporting unnecessary delays because of errors with their correspondence and lost documents, a spokesman for Waspi said.
The movement was advised that due to the volume of complaints received, the ICE would set up a separate department to deal solely with their cases.
According to freedom of information requests, this department has three people, and only six investigations have been concluded from thousands of complaints received, a spokesman for Waspi said.
Bindmans, a legal firm hired by Waspi, has been asking for this process to be streamlined, with the request being repeatedly refused, the movement claims.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, contacted by Bindmans, has now stepped in and agreed with the ICE directly that it will streamline the process.
The investigation will now focus on a representative sample of complaints and how any such maladministration should be addressed, which is expected to speed up the process significantly, a spokesman for Waspi said.
Susan Beevers, Waspi’s legal director, said that this decision could reduce the length of the case by around one year.
According to Jamie Potter, partner at Bindmans, Waspi will be "working to assist the ICE in identifying an appropriate representative sample, with a view to establishing whether there was maladministration and how any such maladministration should be addressed".
Ms Beevers said that Waspi's legal team will be selecting the sample cases in two categories: women only affected by the 1995 Pension Act, and women affected by that act plus the 2011 one.
She said: “We have women that sought to get information from the DWP and got something that was either incorrect or misleading, or was silenced in the increase in age, or they were told they couldn't have a state pension forecast at all because the systems were being upgraded.
“In both of those two main categories for the two acts there are women that fall into those clusters.
“We will seek to pull half a dozen samples of each in those clusters, have a look at them, and make sure we put forward the cases which are best representative.”