State Pension  

Ombudsman still to decide on Waspi claims

Ombudsman still to decide on Waspi claims

The parliamentary ombudsman, which stepped in to review complaints against the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) from women affected by changes to the state pension age in November, has still not decided whether to investigate the claims.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), the dispute resolution body for complaints brought against government departments, is looking at a number of claims brought by women born in the 1950s, who are affected by an increase in the state pension age, and allege they were given inadequate notice of the changes ahead.

The gripes are part of a legal campaign backed by thousands of women from across the country.

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The PHSO agreed to step in in November after processing complaints, initially submitted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), proved slow, with many women reporting unnecessary delays because of errors with their correspondence and lost documents.

But eight months on the body has still not decided how to proceed with this matter.

A PHSO spokesperson told FTAdviser: "We are considering the complaints we’ve received about various issues related to the changes to the state pension age for women, to decide whether to launch an investigation."

The PHSO said it expects to provide an update on the cases once they have decided to investigate.

Campaigns such as Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) and Backto60 claim 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 groups also claim the changes were implemented faster than stated in the 2011 Pensions Act and left women with no time to make alternative plans.

But the Waspi campaign has been blighted by infighting and the legal process ground to a halt as Bindmans, the law firm that was supporting Waspi, dropped the case due to the internal disputes.

Last week, MP Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for work and pensions, said he had been assured by the ombudsman it would be launching a thorough investigation into the processes implemented by various governments since the original 1995 Pensions Act.

Mr Lloyd said he expected the final ombudsman report to make recommendations for financial compensation.

He said: “Few people deny the pension age needed to change, as we are all living so much longer, but the poor communication to those women affected from governments of various political hues ever since the original act does need challenging. I hope a recommendation for suitable compensation will follow.”

maria.espadinha@ft.com