50s women pensions: Flaws in the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s preliminary maladministration report ?

Last week I had sight of the Parliamentary Ombudsman confidential preliminary report into whether there was maladministration in informing some four million women that their pensions would have to wait another six years before they got their penswion.

The report found that there was – but only from 2005. The report exonerated the Department for Work and Pensions for its handling of everything from 1995 – when the Pensions Act was passed – to 2004.

Its official words were: ” Between 1995 and 2004, accurate information about changes to State Pensions Age was publicly available in leaflets, through DWP’s agencies and on its website. What the DWP did reflects expectations set out in the Civil Service Code, the DWP Policy Statement, the Pension Services Customer Services Charter and the Benefit Agency Customer Charter”.

I thought I would check their findings against the release of hitherto secret documents from the DWP following the court case brought by BackTo60 which I obtained when the case was over.

The Ombudsman’s report says it applied the same standard to events that happened before 2005 and after 2005 – when internal documents showed the ministry did have tougher standards for the delivery and supply of information for benefits and pensions from 2006 which strengthened the Ombudsman’s hand.

What surprised me therefore was the lack of weight in the Ombudsman’s report placed on a key document in February 1997 -just months before the general election that saw Tony Blair’s landslide victory.

It read: “Ministers have seen your submission of 20 January seeking agreement to run an advertising campaign aimed at informing/reminding women of the change in state pensions age following the Pensions Act 1995.

“Ministers do not see a pressing need at this stage to run such a campaign but would be prepared to re-consider at a later date.”

Lack of curiosity

There seems to be a remarkable lack of curiosity by the Ombudsman about this. For a start the internal document shows it went right up to Peter Lilley, then Secretary of State, which is the highest level in the ministry. Secondly they don’t ask what sparked civil servants to seek such action.

Perhaps it might be because the the DWP devoted just two sentences in an appendix to the legislation to any thought of communicating the change to millions of people. They decided to leave it in the hope that employers might voluntarily tell their staff. Why should they, surely it is the government’s job? The DWP anyway insisted in the court case they had no obligation to tell anybody.

The second point is that the Ombudsman is right to mention that leaflets were printed, there was some advertising and were distributed in benefit offices and citizen advice bureaux. What they don’t say is the quantity. Internal documents show the DWP spent just £80,000 printing 47,000 leaflets to inform the 3.8 million women affected. How pathetic is that for a communications policy?

Priority given to independent financial advisers

Priority was given to informing independent financial advisers, representing the wealthiest pensioners, who received personalised letters. For some reason, this letter appeared to be missing from the 1,600 pages of documents submitted by the DWP as part of the judicial review.

Yes some £6.5 million was spent by Alistair Darling, the Labour social security secretary in 2001 on advertising -including the notorious talking dogs advert – but ministers at the time tell me the emphasis was then on getting people to take out a second workplace pension to supplement the state pension not on the impending rise in the pension age for women.

So it seems curious for me that the Ombudsman has let off the ministry for this period while coming down strongly against them after 2005 when people had little time left to plan to alter their retirement plans. The evidence that millions of people didn’t know as the internal documents reveal is shaming for the DWP, as is the slow way they reacted to the facts. Indeed, ironically it was only because civil servants feared someone would complain to the Ombudsman that they thought they must cover their backs.

Flaw in the process

My other thought about the report is the process. Normally the Ombudsman might be dealing with one family or a small group of people in handling a maladministration case. In this instance they are asking six people to respond to their report on behalf of four million people. It puts a huge burden on those six people to have the knowledge and time to respond to get this right. I don’t know who they are but I am not sure in this case this is entirely the right process – since they can’t share the findings with other people or get advice.

This is one reason once I discovered the report had been circulated rather more widely than the six – including with the DWP and MPs – that I thought, on public interest grounds, it ought to be more widely known.

56 thoughts on “50s women pensions: Flaws in the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s preliminary maladministration report ?

  1. Two of the six test cases and who are also BT60 supporters and one time moderators, raised almost £8k to initiate consultation with lawyers. Why are you saying they couldn’t get advice? Of course they could and the PHSO even states that they can.

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  2. David again you hit the nail on the head. Even tho the Ombudsman didn’t. Is there a way to appeal his ( documentary ) omissions, if not his conclusion?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So approx 1.5% of the women affected by this could have received a leaflet notifying them of this enormous change but only if they were on benefits or using the Citizens Advice Bureau. The remainder of the 3.8 million women got nothing. You couldn’t make this stuff up could you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Amazing work done by everyone, and your continued support is incredible. I am sure I am not alone, but the fact that I made my pension choice at 50, taking a lump sum, was based on receiving my pension at 60. At that time, there was no talk of increasing the age of retirement, until 2022. I was therefore not informed of the increase in retirement age, if I were, I would not have taken a lump sum, but a smaller sum with a continued rise in pension to help me with through the extra 6 years. I don’t really see this mentioned, where women made decisions, which were based on the information at the time, which was retirement at 60. It wasn’t happening then, but was changed after that by bring the change in the law forward, this is what has caused mass anger, as most of us would not be in this position if the original date of 2022 was adhered to. I hope this makes sense!

    Many thanks again for your continued support.

    Sandra Oxley

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wouldn’t you have checked with the DWP before making such a life changing decision? When I was offered early retirement in 2010 that was the first thing I did was to ask for a forecast about my state pension so I knew I would have to wait until I was 63yrs 7mths. The 2011 Act really annoyed me as it raised my SPA again and I had to wait till almost 65.

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      • I never checked, as retirement age for women was 60. I worked in a Law firm who advised the government, and I did not know about the increase. I retired 14 years ago, and there was no mention, as far as I recall about increasing the pension age. It was as far as I was aware 2022 when the pension age would rise, so why would I enquire. I felt working in the law firm in the pensions department, that I was very well informed. The problem is not my enquiring, it was in the date being brought forward without any warning. I had already made my decision to retire, and the change did not happen until AFTER that, so how would I have know? The change had not been made, and they would still have told me the retirement age was 60, as it was at the time I took my early retirement.

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      • Unfortunately I made a decision in 2012 to take early retirement based on an online document stating that if I had 35 years National Insurance contributions I would be able to claim the New State Pension at 60. In 2012 I had paid 37 years so more than enough. Apparently this information was still on the Internet in 2015! Some of us tried but were not given the right information. Many were not even aware of how to do it so please do not assume that everyone is as capable as you.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I had to take my works pensions at the age of 57 due to ill health issues. My company pensions is reduced by 5% for every year up to the age of 65. I would not be able to keep working due to illness but if it wasn’t for my reduced works pensions l would not be due my old age pensions until I am 66. I would be living on no money at all. My husband who is the same age is working and having to pay the bills and all living expenses for us both. After paying into the system for over 40 years we expected to have our pensions at 60 and 65. Its disgusting what the government are doing to people when they should be winding down and at least be able to enjoy a few years of non working in reasonable comfortable

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      • I believe we (those for whom the pension age went up without knowing about it but who left work before the new old age pension age) are hit twice as because the retirement age is raised we are also expected to have paid NI up to the age of 65 or 66 or whatever it is for the individual… so if we don’t pay THAT deficit then we will get a reduced pension when at last we do reach the age we are entitled to it. So, a double penalty… that is how I understand it.

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  5. I worked for the DWP from 1982 and left in 2010 – I never saw any leaflets about increasing the retirement age for women, even though one of the jobs I had there was as a fully trained
    Benefits Adviser!

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you worked for the DWP then you would know one of its main objectives was to treat every individual as a citizen with rights and obligations. It really surprises me that a rule bound organisation like the DWP did not train its staff to inform people of their entitlements as it certainly trained them in ways to stop people claiming benefits. What part did the CAB play in this comedy of errors, did they at any point not run campaigns to inform women of their rights.

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      • You say “if ” I worked there, why do you doubt it?

        I received plenty of training about entitlement to benefits but never anything about the changes to SPA. Also I “certainly” never received any training in ways to stop people claiming benefits.

        When I took early retirement in 2010 at the age of 53, with a very reduced occupational pension due to maternity leave and some years of part-time working, I was unaware of the changes to SPA myself. I thought that I would only have to wait 6.5 years for my pension, and now find myself among the many still waiting, after 11 years.

        I was never informed by DWP, either personally or professionally, about the rise in SPA, even though they have always had my up-to-date contact details needed to pay my wages and later my CS pension.

        I have no idea what part CAB played in this as (1) I have never worked for CAB and (2) I had no idea that any of this was happening.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The increased pension age up til 2013 did not hit people on benefit, as it was not til Welfare Reform Act 2012 that men and women from age 60 lost Pension Credit, which did not require you to actively seek work to claim nor was it based on your National Insurance record.

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    • I also worked for the DWP for over 30 years mostly in the pension section. There was loads of information/bulletins on our staff intranet about the SPA changes and lots of training going on in our department to make sure people were given the correct info when they called. We even had the timetable stuck to our desks after the first rise so we could easily give out the correct age. I’ve seen so many people saying they phoned up and got given the wrong age and I find this very hard to believe as we had to check and even triple check before giving it out.

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      • As we know Grace from our own experiences when phoning the DWP. It depends who you get on the other end of the phone! A helpful p, organised by and knowledgeable person which sounds like you, or an unhelpful and unknowledgeable person!

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  6. I am sick of them trying to get out of giving us our money back I found out when I came to see how much pension I would receive and sat in shock of the added 6 years I was lucky to still be alive to work my six years. Extra I have health conditions also . And to boot took an extra 6 years worth of national insurance .

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  7. I am very glad you have communicated this and I thank you. Having read it I am reassured that there was in fact maladministration and an ineffective enquiry into the matter. I thought I couldn’t possibly have missed being informed of such an important matter. The only place I heard about it was on radio 4.
    But what can we do to address this. I am out of my depth.

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  8. Totally agree David.
    The issue was with the first tranche of SOA change. .and sweeping it away as ok isn’t good enough.

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  9. I don’t know anybody my age group who knew they were not getting their pension at 60? I have worked all my life since 15 and have my full NI stamps. I have never been to a citizens advice bureau or benefits office so how the hell was I ever going to find out? 18months before my 60th gave me no chance to change my heavy work? And I missed an opportunity 5 years earlier to study for 2 years to upgrade to qualified nurse? But didn’t take it as I was so near my retirement date (or so I thought?) scandalous!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Dear David Hencke, This is a copy of my letter to the ombudsman because of your blog article.

    I am one of the many complainants who put in the complaint letters about maladministration of communication of pension age rise for women.

    Even though you are progressing with a sample complaint of only 6 women, I am one of the complainants as I sent you all the stages of the formal letters to the PHSO. I have not received any communication from your office to update me.

    I had to find out (not being a member of WASPI but of other groups and my own) that the complaint is being progressed now, from the blog of the journalist David Hencke, after he saw the preliminary report on this, sent to MPs.

    I have been pension campaigning since 2013, so know what I am talking about as I am a victim, in amongst the 3.8m women.

    It cannot possibly be correct that the maladministration of communication was only from 2005.

    You are talking about the wrong law, for a start.

    WEBSITE

    First, the poorest of women, most reliant on the state pension, will not and remain not, internet savvy so would not have accessed websites.

    BENEFIT AND CITIZEN ADVICE BUREAU
    Benefit offices did not need to tell women about pension age rise, as up until Welfare Reform Act 2012, men and women from 60 had access to means tested Pension Credit, which did not require being in work or seeking a job to be able to claim, nor relied on your National Insurance record.

    MEN EQUALITY 60
    The government in the 1990s were debating women’s pension age rise, when what they had received was a petition to parliament of 300,000 signatures from men for pension age 60 for men.

    Men were winning court cases in the 1980s and 1990s for pensioner benefits for men at 60, and continued winning those court cases after 1995.

    We were denied the court papers of the men taking the 1995 pension act to Judicial Review at High Court, made secret for 70 years as deemed ‘sensitive’ and put in some university vaults. The men lost their case, despite all the court decisions of equality at 60 for men before that date.

    LAWS

    We were not informed parliament was debating women’s pension age rise between 1992 to 1995.

    The Tory government was in power til 1997.

    We were not informed by letter of the 2004 Finance Act that rose early works pension age from 50 to 55 in 2010.

    We were not informed by letter of parliamentary debate from 2005 to 2007, of 2007 pension act, which amended 1995 pension act and further rose pension age to 66, 67 and 68 for men and women the same.

    Only the richest of people (mostly men) were sent personalised letters about women’s pension age rise from 1995 pension act.

    Men and women, the same, are not aware of pension ages 66, 67 and 68 still to this day and about 2007 pension act’s existence.

    Whatever communication you assert, pension age rise was accelerated faster by 2011 pension act, right at the point of 1950s women starting to turn 60.

    This was done to the 1960s born for pension age rise to 67 by 2014 pension act.

    By custom and practice, women would have assumed pension age 60, as given to mothers and grandmothers since 1940.

    So your preliminary report is entirely incorrect, Sir.

    Labour under Blair and Brown (as Thatcher said, which was her greatest creation) did indeed not communicate pension age rise, but then neither did the Tories from 1992 to 1997 and Tories got back into power in 2010 and in a matter of months rose pension age from 60 through to 66 at an accelerated pace from 2011.

    EARLY DEATH RATE

    It cannot be coincidence that women early died aged in our 60s from 2011, with the highest increase in 2014, with further increase in 2015, staying at that high plateau of early death, til made worse now by the pandemic.

    2014 was when us born 1954 turned 60 and had pension age 65, then turned 66 as birth months determined.

    2015 would have us 1954 and 1955 both without works and state pension for half a decade hence.

    So the extreme top detriment is the high increase of early death of us middle aged women since the pension age rises.

    This was foretold back in 2005 by government actuaries, just for the pension age rise from 65 to 67, which has only just begun for next victims, the 1960s born, now turning 60. Whether men or women by loss of pension and pension credit age 60.

    Admin Grey Swans

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  11. This is getting more confusing by the hour, reading between the lines of all the reports and lies the dwp and parliament have cohorted together to stop the back to 60 having there pensions, why is this not out in the national papers so more people are reading this, to show what a mess the dwp and what parliament have done.

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  12. This Ombudsman investigation was a flawed process as David says in his last paragraphs. I am afraid what we used to think of as ‘due process’ has gone out of the window. I refer to minute 3.1 of the minutes of the PHSO’s February 2021 board meeting, belatedly published on the PHSO website.

    PHSO admits to having 2600 health complaints awaiting allocation to an ‘investigator’. The Board has approved there will no longer be full investigations for those where the claimed injustice is at Level 1 or 2 of PHSO’s severity of injustice scale.

    I feel really sorry for all of this people who have patiently waited through the Covid crisis for their cases to be allocated. Now there will be an arbitrary PHSO decision on what tier their case falls into with no right of appeal other than costly Judicial Review.

    The odd uphold does pop up from time to time so that PHSO can say they are doing a good job. We should not be fooled. There is no justice for most complainants. The Patients Association found in 2015 that PHSO was unfit for purpose.

    I am afraid it still is on both the parliamentary and the health sides. If you are in any doubt check out the blogs of PHSOthetruestory. It will enlighten you

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  13. Women in work had little to do with the DWP – they only needed to consult Citizen’s Advice when they learned their pensions had been stolen. With the current lack of integrity in politics, it is little surprise that the government did not widely announce they intended to unilaterally and arbitrarily breach a contract over over 4 decades standing and not only withhold 6 years of pensions but also misappropriate the £271billion NI pot. I can understand why the sneaky government would act in such a fashion in secret, but the fact that the ombudsman is aiding and abetting them in their dishonesty makes me question why we have such a toothless guardian of our government’s behaviour.

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  14. despite all this batting about of rights and wrongs it doesn’t take it away from the fact that women are suffering because of the changes made. we have paid our dues it is not a benefit. it is a pension plan that we have paid into all our working life. I am fully paid up, I cannot contribute anymore buy I cannot have my money.

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  15. David is this really your attempt at an apology to all the 50s’ women who once thought of you as supportive? You have angered many of us with this leak of confidential information and you’re now trying to say it was to help us. Oh come on, how stupid do you think we are? You have realised that you’ve upset a great many of us and are now trying to talk your way out of trouble.

    You may not know all six of the test cases, but you certainly know two of them who happen also to be BT60 supporters. You follow them on Twitter and they follow you and have done for a long time. Strangely enough only a few hours after this blog, @maladmin suddenly pops up with an update imploring you not to leak confidential information and you retweet it almost immediately. What a surprise, not!

    Time to apologise to all the 50s’ women who you’ve greatly angered. We’ve spent years getting to this stage, putting in a lot of effort gathering evidence and completing letter after letter. Your actions could have seriously jeopardised this investigation. It looks like it won’t but you didn’t know that and if you’re honest you still don’t. You seriously misjudged the mood. Take some responsibility and man up as they say. You were wrong. Have the courage to admit it.

    This may not get past your moderation but at least you will read it and hopefully think long and hard about future actions.

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    • Thank you for your email. I am afraid I do not agree with you. As a factual point have you contacted the editor of the I newspaper and the editor of the Financial Times who both ran the story and told them to take responsibility and say they were wrong to publish? Neither paper contacted me but from reading the article it is obvious they did contact the PHSO before publishing it as they would need to verify it. Also have you contacted Google News who also ran both articles ? The reason why there would be such interest is that it is the first time anybody has ruled that it could be maladministration and should have been known to all four million 50s women. There is an old saying in journalism , news is something that someone doesn’t want people to know, all the rest is advertising.

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      • Totally disingenuous and you know it. The other newspapers ran the story AFTER you had already leaked it and it was in the public domain.

        You were totally in the wrong to leak confidential information whilst it was still in the investigation stage and as Joyce says, you have angered many 50s’ women. The report would have been published to all at the correct time.

        It’s quite clear where your loyalties lie and it’s not all 50s’ born women as you claim.

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      • Hardly disingenuous. Having worked on a national newspaper for over 33 years I do know the process for publication. The fact they didn’t contact me meant they sought to verify the information elsewhere. Papers don’t blindly publish confidential reports from social media for legal reasons. So it is obvious the complainant hasn’t the courage of her convictions or she would have wrote a similarly worded email to the FT and the I. It may have angered some 50s women but a lot of them have applauded me for telling them what is happening. I can also tell the interest in the story from the readership figures on my own blog.

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      • I’m quite sure the other publications did verify their story with the PHSO before running it. I am not so sure that they would have run the story had you not leaked it in the first place.

        You leaked confidential information and you still try to defend yourself. Shame on you.

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  16. Thank you David, once again, for these highly lucid and obvious observations about how 50’s women were ignored and insulted by the extraordinary resistance to honour their national insurance and pension promises. It is extremely hurtful and offensive that these women were targeted to lose what other women previously had enjoyed without question. Women were left to depend on men and had no access to their own workplace pension until late in the 90’s. This article reminds us of the discrimination between wealthier and poorer women. So much so that it’s It’s like stepping back in time. There seems to be a massive degree of deliberate incompetence, barely disguised discrimination, contempt and resistance. to women of the 1950’s. It’s a painful disgrace. Thank you for reminding us of the real truth, Kind Regards Julie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  17. Many thanks for highlighting this issue to the wider public – the government as always is attempting to keep us all in the dark.

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  18. Please can someone put an end to this NIGHTMARE. 1950s women deserve there pensions NOW Does anyone have the slightest notion how unforgivable it is to be left in toal limbo having paid money towards a pension they cannot access You are all guilty of mental cruelty and i for one am loosing the desire to live. At 63 years of age is it too much to ask for the pension i worked hard for and the pension i so desperately need

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  19. It sickens me the corrupt way us women have been treated, by Governments DWP & the Legal System it stinks. I refuse to give up hope, I just wish the door stopped being slammed in our faces at every turn. Thank You David for your continuing efforts.

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  20. I can’t recall seeing or receiving any leaflets
    about the change in the raising the pension age.
    I also have a question
    Q: Does anyone know why they chose
    The 1950’s and not the 60’s as that would
    Have given people longer time to make
    Arrangements to review and revaluate
    Their pension pot.

    Thank you for continuing to support us of this nightmare situation .

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  21. I found out by checking my online thinking I got my pension to then find out I had another 6 years. I was shocked to say the least. And I had to pay an extra 6 years of national insurance. I am fed up with them all skirting around what they did we should get our money back. Before other ladies die how dare they do this to us all. Disgusting. So unfair. !

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  22. For me I made a contact with the government when I started work at 15yrs and I kept to the agreements I have been forced to work an extra 6yrs and my contribution are 50 years worth. It’s inexcusable for any government to use my contributions for anything else but my pension which I should have receive at 60yrs.

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  23. Pingback: Parliamentary Ombudsman officially says maladministration over 50s women pensions – but it will still be a long wait for justice | Westminster Confidential

  24. I was made redundant Sept 2010. Found out casually at job centre no pension until 6 Nov 2017..spent my career in finance incl payroll
    Never saw anything about pension changes.
    Had one temp job for two weeks.. dob 1.9.1953. Had total heart failure 26 Dec 2016
    .failed cardioversion

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I sent an email with attachment of the document, on 20.04.2016 to a lady running a 50s ladies pension group regarding the MPs Pension Document – it stated the ages of 65 for men and 60 for women on page 14. Unfortunately this document is no longer available on the gov website – strange it should disappear. So in 2016 the Gov website still had those ages as SPA for men and women. How are we supposed to know they had changed – a crystal ball??? Also, MP were allowed to ‘choose’ which scheme for their pension if they were within 10 years of pension age, the old scheme at 60 or the new at 65/66 (dependent on their age). We weren’t given that option or even the knowledge. It has all been a big cover up with much evidence ignored. 6 test cases out of the thousands of complaints they received? I am still waiting to be passed to the ombudsman after 3 years of waiting. Fulfilled all the other obstacles to get that far. My Conservative MP said on her website ‘we stand for fairness, opportunity, inclusiveness and we work hard to improve the lives of local people’. Could have fooled me, she won’t even listen to Waspi ladies.
    Without you, David Hencke, we wouldn’t know half as much or have got this far. Thank you.

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  26. Wholeheartedly agree with your observations.
    As a secondary school teacher I have every letter/document sent to me regarding my private pension.
    I received nothing in regards to my state pension and once prompted into requesting a forecast the DWP wrote to me informing me that my state pension would commence in my seventies. Have letters to validate this.
    Such incompetence is unacceptable.
    Helen Green

    Liked by 1 person

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