The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has resumed its investigation into complaints about the state pension age rise for women, following the outcome of the judicial review last year.
In a post on its website, the ombudsman stated it was able to resume its consideration of complaints regarding changes in women’s state pension age despite the application for appeal of the High Court case being ongoing.
It said it has seen the judicial review judgment and knows what issues the High Court has ruled on.
Backto60 and the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) group claim when 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 movements also claim the changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act, and had left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.
In October 2018, PHSO announced it would investigate a sample of complaints brought to it about the department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) regarding these state pension age changes.
But in December 2018 PHSO suspended its investigation after it found the judicial review would consider the same issues.
In October last year, the High Court rejected claims that increasing the state pension age for women born in the 1950s discriminated against them on the grounds of age and sex, and that the government had failed to appropriately notify those affected of the changes.
PHSO will now continue to look at the complaints, taking the High Court’s judgment into account. It has selected six complaints to act as lead cases to set a precedent for thousands of others.
According to PHSO, many complainants are seeking reinstatement of their state pension, the state pension age to revert to 60, and/or compensation for the amount of state pension they would have received had their state pension age not changed.
But the High Court decision has made clear that the ombudsman is not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions.
It also cannot recommend that anyone receive their state pension any earlier than the law allows as to do so would in effect reverse or try to reverse the effect of primary legislation.
However, the ombudsman may be able to offer compensation where it finds an injustice was suffered as result of maladministration.
PHSO’s investigation differs from the judicial review as not all of the issues were considered in the High Court, in particular DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling and the government's communication of changes to National Insurance.
The ombudsman stated: “Our investigation looks at the issues from a different perspective. We are proposing to investigate whether there was maladministration, where an organisation does something wrong or provides poor service.”
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