WASPI women: Women who lost out in state pension age change owed compensation – ombudsman

It has urged parliament to intervene ‘swiftly’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to adequately communicate changes to women’s state pension age, and those affected are owed compensation, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has said.

The ombudsman has asked Parliament to intervene and “act swiftly” to make sure a compensation scheme is established.

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To date, the DWP has not acknowledged its failings, nor put things right for those affected, the ombudsman said.

Glasgow WASPI group mark International Women's Day in 2018. Photo: John DevlinGlasgow WASPI group mark International Women's Day in 2018. Photo: John Devlin
Glasgow WASPI group mark International Women's Day in 2018. Photo: John Devlin

Its investigation found that thousands of women may have been affected by DWP’s failure to adequately inform them that the state pension age had changed.

PHSO chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: ”The UK’s national ombudsman has made a finding of failings by DWP in this case, and has ruled that the women affected are owed compensation.

“DWP has clearly indicated that it will refuse to comply. This is unacceptable. The department must do the right thing and it must be held to account for failure to do so.

“Complainants should not have to wait and see whether DWP will take action to rectify its failings.

“Given the significant concerns we have that it will fail to act on our findings, and given the need to make things right for the affected women as soon as possible, we have proactively asked Parliament to intervene and hold the department to account.

“Parliament now needs to act swiftly, and make sure a compensation scheme is established. We think this will provide women with the quickest route to remedy.”

The 1995 Pensions Act and subsequent legislation raised the state pension age for women born on or after April 6 1950.

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The ombudsman investigated complaints that, since 1995, DWP has failed to provide accurate, adequate and timely information about areas of state pension reform.

The ombudsman published stage one of its investigation in July 2021. It found failings in the way DWP communicated changes to women’s state pension age.

The DWP’s handling of the pension age changes meant some women lost opportunities to make informed decisions about their finances. It diminished their sense of personal autonomy and financial control, the ombudsman said.

In addition to paying compensation, the ombudsman made it clear that the DWP should acknowledge its failings and apologise for the impact it has had on complainants and others similarly affected.

It said it has received a series of complaints relating to how the DWP has communicated a variety of state pension reforms, and concerns about communication of changes to the state pension age constitute only one area of complaint.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) chairwoman Angela Madden called for a “proper compensation package” for those who had been affected over the years.

She said: “The DWP’s (Department for Work and Pensions) refusal to accept the clear conclusions of this five-year-long investigation is simply unbelievable. One of the affected women is dying every 13 minutes, and we just cannot afford to wait any longer.

“Now that the PHSO (Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman) findings have at last been published, all parties owe it to the women affected to make a clear and unambiguous commitment to compensation.

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“The ombudsman has put the ball firmly in Parliament’s court and it is now for MPs to do justice to all the 3.6 million women affected.

“The report at least finds that Level 4 compensation is required, but politicians across party lines have previously supported Level 6 – which would far more clearly and reasonably recognises the injustice and loss of opportunities suffered.

“We are now looking to those who have supported us over the years to put their money with their mouth is and back us on a proper compensation package. All the parties are now in the spotlight with Waspi women watching and waiting to see how they should best use their votes in the coming general election.”

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