State Pension  

Waspi women ‘frustrated’ at ombudsman delays

Waspi women ‘frustrated’ at ombudsman delays

Campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality have spoken of their frustration after “waiting for months” for the parliamentary ombudsman to make a decision regarding their case.

Their case at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman centres on "miscommunication" by the Department for Work and Pensions surrounding the state pension age changes for women born in the 1950s.

Waspi campaign communications director Debbie de Spon told FTAdviser that she “didn’t know what the delay was” but that the Waspi women had expected a decision by now.

Thousands of women made complaints about the way the government communicated the changes to the state pension age affecting women born in the 1950s as part of pension age equalisation.

They initially complained to the Department for Work and Pensions. In February 2017, a petition was launched on the matter by the Waspi Voice faction of the movement.

In November 2017, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman intervened to speed up responses to complaints from the Waspi movement, whilst complaints by women were still being submitted.

The Ombudsman then began an investigation in this area in March 2020 after these complaints were rejected by the Independent Case Examiner at the Department for Work and Pensions.

This investigation was halted when related campaign group Backto60 sought permission to bring a judicial review of the government's changes. This ended up at the Supreme Court, which last month (March 26) dismissed the case, saying the group had failed to bring the claim within the limited time periods.

The Ombudsman subsequently recommenced its investigation, which is currently at stage one.

Stage two will be to look at whether there was an injustice to those complainants if maladministration was found. The third and final stage would consider what to do in the event that injustice was found.

A spokesperson for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said: “We understand that complainants’ want a decision as quickly as possible. We are currently considering comments on our provisional findings and it’s important we do this thoroughly so we reach a fair and robust decision.”

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.

Debbie de Spon said what had happened to this group of women was a “historic wrong which we think needs to be compensated”.

The loss of six years of retirement and state pension equates to £50,000 for some women. 

She told FTAdviser what Waspi women are hoping for is “acknowledgement and compensation for the loss of money”.

However, it is understood the Ombudsman is not able to recommend that the DWP reimburse 'lost' pensions, or receive earlier access to state pensions, as these would reverse existing legislation.