State Pension  

DWP takes 11 months to answer pension age complaints

DWP takes 11 months to answer pension age complaints

Women that made a complaint about changes to their state pension age have to wait in average 11 months to get an answer from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).

Kit Malthouse, minister for family support, said this week, (15 May) in a written answer to Parliament, that to date it has taken the Independent Case Examiner's office an average of 39 weeks to allocate complaints concerning changes to state pension age to an investigation case manager.

It then takes nine more weeks to complete investigations in to this group of complaints, against a target of 20 weeks.

As part of a legal campaign, thousands of women from across the country have submitted, and continue to submit, complaints against the DWP regarding what they call an inadequate communication of changes to the state pension age.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) movement has been at the forefront of this campaign, claiming 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 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 previously reporting unnecessary delays because of errors with their correspondence and lost documents.

The examiner had 2,841 complaints regarding this matter as of 10 May, at various stages of the process.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The ICE Office is currently working through these cases but waiting times may vary as the vast majority of the complaints that are referred to ICE are complex, requiring a full investigation.

“Of those who responded to the ICE customer survey, 82 per cent said they were satisfied with the service they received.”

According to Martin Bamford, chartered financial planner for Surrey-based Informed Choice, the length of time it takes to get an official response to a complaint varies depending on its complexity and the volume of complaints being handled by an organisation.

He said: “We live in a culture of instant gratification, so unreasonable expectations of timescales for most things are commonplace.

“In respect of these complaints about state pension age changes, the government could reduce the burden on the Independent Case Examiner's office by addressing these complaints as a class action.

“I assume that the complaints all follow a similar pattern, probably in many cases based on a template complaint letter provided by Waspi or another action group.

“It’s ironic to some extent that the cost of dealing with this flood of complaints could have helped keep the state pension age lower for longer.”

In November, Bindmans, a firm which was assisting Waspi, achieved a breakthrough in this case, as the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman agreed to intervene to speed up responses to complaints.