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DWP gives new update in State Pension age change battle with WASPI campaigners

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 24/07/2022 David Bentley & Aaron Morris

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have issued a fresh update over a battle over changes made to State Pension ages, with campaigners WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) reeking redress for all caught-out by the system shake-up.

The group are in-turn calling for a one-off compensation payment between the sum of £11,666 and £20,000, to be paid to all affected by the DWP's failure to give enough warning to women that their State Pension age was rising from 60 to 66.

A change to the national pension age for women, which was legalised in 1995, is said to have not been communicated to most affected until 2012 - which led the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to find the DWP guilty of maladministration.

Read more: DWP confirms claimants on Universal Credit, PIP and other benefits will get payment rise

It said that "the opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost."

Birmingham Live reports that MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions had taken place with the ombudsman. She also asked when the DWP planned to publish its stage two report on complaints regarding to the notification of changes. Lisa Nandy, Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, also asked why the DWP was not responding to requests to meet WASPI and discuss the issue.

WASPI conduct a silent rally in Manchester © Manchester Evening News WASPI conduct a silent rally in Manchester

Pensions Minister Guy Opperman responded by saying: "State Pension age issues have been debated extensively in the House over many years, and subsequently litigated in the highest courts in the land. The PHSO Ombudsman’s investigation into communication of changes to women's State Pension is ongoing; section 7(2) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 states that Ombudsman investigations 'shall be conducted in private.'

"It would be inappropriate to discuss these issues whilst the PHSO Ombudsman's investigation is ongoing. This is the approach of successive governments to such matters."

This is a fresh blow to hopeful WASPI representatives alike, who have been trying endeavouring endlessly to meet with Mr Opperman since the PHSO's confirmation last year that 1950s-born women were victims of maladministration by the DWP. The ombudsman explained that after finding maladministration: "We then move to the second stage and consider whether it led to an injustice for the complainant.

"At the second stage, we would also consider the complaints about DWP not adequately communicating the required number of years of national insurance contributions to receive a full State Pension, as well as DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling. If we find there was an injustice that has not already been remedied then we will proceed to the third stage and make recommendations to put things right."

WASPI is now urging the DWP to provide compensation plans ahead of the ombudsman's final stage of investigation - with many of the women approaching retirement in a state of financial hardship due to the ongoing cost of living crisis in the UK. Campaigners note that their research anticipates that 222,000 women will have already died during the lengthy wait for a pay-out to the end of this year.

The error is said to have impacted roughly 3.6 million women who were born on or after April 6, 1950.

WASPI Chair and Finance Director Angela Madden said: "We are grateful for MPs such as Kerry McCarthy’s continued support for the WASPI campaign. Our members are understandably getting frustrated by Opperman’s stubborn refusal to engage with the issue and are beginning to conclude that the Government is just choosing to ignore the issue rather than rectify it when they can.

"The ombudsman has already found the DWP guilty of maladministration of the communication of changes to women's State Pension age. Despite this, the Government is refusing to meet with campaigners to agree on fair and fast compensation."

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman told BirminghamLive it will be making recommendations to the DWP but has no power to force it to put up pension amounts or pay back the money the women would have received had the retirement age not gone up.

It said: "Many complainants have told us they are seeking reinstatement of their State Pension, the State Pension age to revert to 60, and/or compensation for the amount of State Pension they would have received had their State Pension age not changed.

"The 2019 High Court decision underlined that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse 'lost' pensions. We also can't recommend that anyone receive their State Pension any earlier than the law allows. To do so would reverse or try to reverse primary legislation."

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