In Focus: Retirement Income  

Govt failed in communicating women's pension age changes, PHSO finds

Govt failed in communicating women's pension age changes, PHSO finds

Women born in the 1950 suffered delays of more than two years when being informed about their pension age hike due to government maladministration, according to preliminary findings by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

As first reported by the Financial Times, the provisional decision, which was leaked on social media on Tuesday (June 8), could allow for potential compensation for thousands of women who argue they were not given enough notice to adjust their retirement plans.

Campaign groups BackTo60 and the Women Against State Pension Inequality claim that when the 1995 Conservative government’s Pensions 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 Pensions Act 2011, leaving women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.

In October 2018, the parliamentary ombudsman announced it would investigate a sample of complaints brought to it about the Department for Work and Pensions and the Independent Case Examiner.

But in December 2018, PHSO suspended its investigation after it became apparent that a judicial review into this matter 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 by the changes.

The PHSO announced in January that it would resume its investigation, taking the High Court’s judgment into account. It selected six complaints to act as lead cases to set a precedent for thousands of others.

According to the FT, the preliminary findings show that the DWP had indeed communicated adequately the planned female pension age rises between 1995, when the change was first legislated for, and 2004.

But it had failed to act promptly after analysis in 2004 found the government's information campaign was not reaching the “people who needed it”, and recommended a targeted approach.

In 2006, the DWP proposed directly writing to women individually to tell them their state pension age was rising, after a further survey found that nearly half of women affected thought the pension age was still 60. However, the DWP did not implement the proposals until December 2007, three years before the changes came into effect.

The ombudsman has provisionally determined that the DWP should have acted 28 months sooner in writing to women who analysis identified were unaware of the forthcoming increases to their pension ages, according to documents seen by the FT.

The ombudsman is expected to issue its final report in July. The DWP told the FT it did not comment on leaks or live ombudsman investigations.

maria.espadinha@ft.com

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