State Pension  

Ombudsman finds ‘maladministration’ in DWP’s complaint handling

Ombudsman finds ‘maladministration’ in DWP’s complaint handling
 

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found evidence of "maladministration" in the way the Department for Work and Pensions handled complaints about, and communicated changes, to women's state pension age.

In its findings for stage two of the investigation, the ombudsman found that there was maladministration in DWP’s communication about national insurance qualifying years and in its complaints handling.

It noted that there was no maladministration in the independent case examiner’s (ICE) complaint handling. 

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The ombudsman also said the DWP’s complaint handling did not lead to all the injustices claimed.

This follows on from stage one of the ombudsman’s investigation which found that between 1995 and 2004, DWP’s communication of changes to the state pension age reflected the standards it would expect it to meet.  

However, in 2005, DWP “failed to make a reasonable decision about targeting information” to the women affected by these changes which the ombudsman said was maladministration. 

In 2006, DWP proposed writing to women individually to tell them about changes to SPA but it failed to act promptly which the ombudsman also labelled as maladministration.  

The PHSO said it is now considering what action it thinks DWP should take to “remedy the injustice" it has found.

This is the third and final stage of the investigation. 

“We have shared our provisional views about stage three with complainants, their MPs, and DWP,” it wrote. 

“They now have an opportunity to provide comments about stage three.”

Once the ombudsman has considered any further evidence it receives, it will publish the report into the findings of stage two and stage three at the same time.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women.

“Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.”

SPA changes

The 1995 Pensions Act and subsequent legislation raised SPA for women born on or after 6 April 1950. 

Women complained that DWP did not adequately communicate these changes and that they have experienced financial loss and a negative impact on their health, emotional well-being or home life as a result.   

They also complained they suffered financial loss due to DWP inadequately communicating how many NI qualifying years they need for a full SPA.

The ombudsman said: “They (women) told us that DWP’s and ICE's handling of their complaints about these issues had a negative effect on their emotional well-being.  

“We have received a significant number of similar complaints since we first proposed to investigate.

“Our review of the complaints shows that they relate to the same key issues. For that reason, we are not accepting any new complaints about these issues at present.”  

The ombudsman is currently investigating six sample complaints that reflect the range of issues complained about.