Victory for thousands of women in state pension scandal: Ombudsman rules that DWP was too slow to tell women that they would be affected by rising pension age
- The 1995 Pensions Act equalised the state pension age for men and women
- But ombudsman received lots of complaints over the way it was communicated
- Many were unaware and experienced financial loss and emotional distress
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was too slow to tell thousands of women that they would be affected by the rising pension age, an ombudsman has ruled.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) said the department failed to act quickly enough once it knew a significant proportion of women were unaware of the changes.
The 1995 Pensions Act equalised the state pension age for men and women.
The ombudsman said it had received a significant number of complaints about the way this was communicated by the DWP.
Many women said that they were not aware of the changes, and experienced significant financial loss and emotional distress, it said.
BackTo60 and WASPI members campaign outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in London last year amid the pensions scandal
Make your voice heard
If you only receive a one-year backpayment from the DWP, here’s how to fight for the full sum.
Step 1. Make a formal complaint of maladministration to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Explain how you missed out because the DWP did not run the system properly. Was your claim form sent to your husband for example, or should Government records have shown you were due the higher rate?
Or it may be you had no reason to suspect the Government would not pay you the top rate available, or that the law change in March 2008 showed the DWP knew some women were missing out.
Send your complaint to the pensions minister at: Guy Opperman MP, DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NA
Step 2. If the DWP rejects your complaint, you can then escalate it to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
To do this, visit ombudsman.org.uk/ making-complaint or call 0345 015 4033.
You will also need ask your MP to refer your complaint to the ombudsman.
The PHSO said that from 2005 onwards, there were failings in the action taken by the DWP to communicate the state pension age.
The ombudsman said its investigation will go on to consider the impact these failings had and make recommendations to put things right for any associated injustice.
This year, thousands of women have been due a windfall after admin errors dating back 30 years saw their state pensions substantially underpaid.
Amanda Amroliwala, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman CEO, said: ‘After a detailed investigation, we have found that the DWP failed to act quickly enough once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware of changes to their state pension age.
‘It should have written to the women affected at least 28 months earlier than it did.
‘We will now consider the impact of these failings, and what action should be taken to address them.’
Angela Madden, who chairs the Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign, told the BBC: ‘The findings reinforce what we, unfortunately, knew all along; that the DWP failed to adequately inform 3.8 million 1950s-born women that their state pension age would be increasing.
‘These women have been waiting for many years for compensation. We cannot wait any longer.
‘We are calling on the government to agree fair and adequate compensation rather than allow what has become a vicious cycle of government inaction to continue.’
The PHSO provides a complaint handling service for issues about the NHS in England and UK Government departments.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was too slow to tell thousands of women that they would be affected by the rising pension age, an ombudsman has ruled
Steve Webb’s firm LCP has launched an online tool to help older married women work out if they are being paid correctly. Find out more here.
But Webb stresses that the website is simply designed as a useful tool, and anyone with any doubt about the amount of pension they are receiving should contact the Department for Work and Pensions. Its details are here.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘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.
‘In a move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the state pension age the same for men and women.’
It emerged earlier this year that around 200,000 women will receive letters to say they are owed an average £13,500 windfall due to state pension admin blunders dating back nearly 30 years.
Budget documents revealed that the scandal will cost the Department for Work and Pensions an estimated £3billion to rectify.
The sum owed to women, who were collossally short-changed, emerged after a joint investigation by This is Money pensions columnist Steve Webb and journalist Tanya Jefferies, following a reader question to the former Pensions Minister’s weekly column for us a year ago.
A dedicated team of 155 civil servants is working through hundreds of thousands of files to trace every woman affected and pay them any money owed. But the laborious task could take six years.
The scandal relates to the failure to pay automatic increases to the state pensions of wives, widows and the over-80s.
Women who retired under the old state pension system before April 6, 2016, are entitled to claim a rate equivalent to 60 per cent of their husband’s basic state pension. The DWP was supposed to pay this automatically from March 2008.
Widows are also entitled to the same state pension their late husband received, and the over-80s should all be receiving at least a 60 per cent state pension.
The current basic state pension pay is £134.25 a week, so married women should be receiving at least £80.45 every week.
I couldn’t afford to heat my house
Wendy Bowles could have dearly done with the extra pension pay she missed out on for close to 20 years.
The retired medical secretary, 81, was repeatedly admitted to hospital after struggling to afford heating.
Wendy and husband Derek, 84, survive on their state pensions after they lost their home and retirement fund when the family dog food business collapsed.
Wendy and husband Derek, 84, survive on their state pensions after they lost their home and retirement fund when the family dog food business collapsed
But when she turned 80, the DWP sent Wendy a letter to say she could have been receiving a bigger pension based on Derek’s full work record.
She has since had her rate increased by around £20 a month and she has had a back-payment for 12 months of £865.76. But her family fears she may have missed out on as much as £17,000.
Wendy, who lives in a rented converted farm building in the Yorkshire Dales, says: ‘It is robbery.
‘They have taken all that money over all those years. I could have desperately done with it. It was very, very cold and the radiators were just about on.
‘I went into hospital umpteen times for chest infections and pneumonia. We have struggled tremendously over the past few years.’
Derek, her husband of more than 60 years, said he could not remember ever receiving the claim form.
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