Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has repeated calls on the government to provide compensation to 1950s-born women who have lost out due to changes to the state pension age.
Mr Esterson wrote to the Work and Pension Secretary Therese Coffey following the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s recent findings of maladministration by the DWP in the way the proposed changes were communicated to the affected women.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) ruled there were a number of ‘failings’ in how the DWP communicated the changes to affected women and said the DWP ‘failed to make reasonable decisions’ and did not communicate with 1950s-born women with enough urgency about the changes.
Mr Esterson wrote to the Secretary of State to ask her to comment on a constituent’s concerns.
The constituent had written: “In light of the Ombudsman’s deliberation that the DWP did not inform 1950s women about the state pension changes, which caused most of us born in the 1950s to lose out on approximately £50,000 each and have to work a further six-seven years, without information or time to plan financially for these changes. What does the government propose to do to rectify this appalling state of affairs about which, you know, we have been campaigning for the last seven years?”
The Pensions Minister Guy Opperman responded regarding the Ombudsman: “Its investigation is ongoing. The report concludes stage one of what could be a three-part investigation. They have stated on their website that they will now move onto stage two of their investigation and will consider whether the complainants suffered an injustice. If they find that there was an injustice that has not already been remedied, they will then proceed to the third stage of their investigation and consider recommendations to address that injustice. I await the next stages of this process, but it is important to stress that the Ombudsman’s investigation is not a review of the entire State Pension age increase from 1995-2011. As they state on their website, ‘A 2019 High Court decision underlined that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions. Nor can we recommend that anyone receive their State Pension any earlier than the law allows.’ Section 7(2) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 says Ombudsman investigations “shall be conducted in private”, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a live Ombudsman’s investigation. The Department has been fully co-operating with the Ombudsman’s investigation and will continue to do so.”
Mr Esterson supported the Labour pledge at the last general election to compensate women for the losses incurred due to the changes, which increased women’s state pensions age from 60 to 66 over a number of years. He signed an early day motion in 2019 calling for restitution for 1950s women. He also personally co-signed a constituent’s Ombudsman maladministration complaint against the DWP, and has written to the DWP numerous times on behalf of constituents.
Mr Esterson said the government should “right this wrong” and provide compensation for those affected. He said: “The way these changes were communicated to women has been shown to have been flawed. This means millions of women had no idea these changes affected them and therefore had no time to plan. Many made decisions to retire early or leave work for health reasons, or to care for relatives, thinking they would be paid their state pension from the age of 60. Many have had to wait another six years, which has resulted in undue hardship because many have been unable to get back into work. The decision by the Conservative government to increase the speed at which these changes came into effect simply compounded the issues. Women should have been informed earlier and more steps should have been taken to ensure that the general public was aware of the upcoming changes. The government has let down these women and left many people tens of thousands of pounds worse off. The government needs to right this wrong.”
The next stage of the Ombudsman investigation will look at what losses were incurred due to the DWP’s maladministration.
The 1995 Pension Act first introduced the plan to increase the state pension age for women to 65, the same as men. The 2011 Pension Act sped up the changes so that the equalisation occurred even more quickly. The state pension age for both men and women is now 66. The state pension age is scheduled to rise to 67 between 2026 and 2028.
Around 3.8million women have been affected and many say they were either not informed at all or were informed too late to make necessary adjustments.