State PensionFeb 28 2022

PHSO requests information on state pension changes from DWP

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PHSO requests information on state pension changes from DWP
Kirsty O'Connor/PA WireCampaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in October 2019

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is waiting for the Department for Work and Pensions to send it evidence relating to the communication of changes to the women’s state pension age.

The PHSO said it has begun working on stage two of the investigation, and is considering whether failures it identified led to an injustice for the complainants, but cannot progress without the evidence.

It is also considering complaints about DWP’s communication about the number of years of National Insurance contributions that are required to receive a full state pension, as well as DWP’s and the Independent Case Examiner’s complaint handling.

The ombudsman said if it finds an injustice that has not already been remedied, it will proceed to the third stage and “make recommendations to put things right”.

It added that, by law, the investigation was private so no further information can be provided while it is ongoing.

The PHSO noted that many complainants are seeking either the reinstatement of their state pension, the state pension age to revert to 60, as well as compensation for the amount of state pension they would have received had their state pension age not changed.

However, a 2019 High Court decision underlined that the PHSO cannot recommend DWP reimburse “lost” pensions, or that anyone should receive their state pension any earlier than the law allows.

Women’s pension age: what happened?

Campaign groups BackTo60 and the Women Against State Pension Inequality claimed that when the 1995 Conservative government’s Pensions Act included plans to raise the women’s state pension age to 65 — the same as men’s — the changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice.

Last summer, the PHSO found the DWP had failed in its communications of these changes.

In the report released in July, the ombudsman said the DWP had 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.

The report concluded that, if the DWP had made a “reasonable decision” in 2005 and then acted “promptly”, it would have written to affected women to tell them about changes to their state pension age by December 2006 at the latest.

This is 28 months earlier than when the DWP actually wrote to them.

“It follows that these women should have had at least 28 months’ more individual notice of the changes than they got,” the report said. 

“The opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.”