Exclusive: Parliamentary Ombudsman stalls maladministration investigation for 3.8 million 50s women denied pensions

Robert Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has halted his maladministration investigation until at least the end of next month leaving 3.8 million women who have delayed pensions having to wait even longer to find out whether he will recommend any compensation.

The women are all born in the 1950s who lost up to £50,000 each when their pension age was raised from 60 to 66 and were not properly informed by the Department for Work and Pensions. The Ombudsman found that for 28 months from 2005 they were victims of maladministration. This is contested by many of the women who believe that from 1997 when Peter Lilley was social security secretary and advised by his civil servants to launch a campaign to alert women what was to happen in 2010 so they could prepare for it. He ignored that and numerous women have told me they were not aware of the change then. The Ombudsman has refused to re-open the first stage of his investigation to look at this again.

Disclosure buried half way through updated website statement

The disclosure of the latest delay is buried half way through an update on the situation on the Ombudsman’s website published on February 18. The link to it is here.

The key words are:

“It is not possible to say how long it will take to reach a conclusion. How long an investigation takes varies depending on its complexity and the amount of evidence to review.

We have asked DWP to send us further evidence by the end of March 2022. We cannot progress stage two of the investigation without that evidence.” ( my emphasis)”

This statement was news to the six original complainants and many other women who assumed that the second stage of the inquiry – whether any of the women are entitled to compensation for this injustice – who assumed that the inquiry which has taken years was proceeding however slowly not that it had been halted.

In fact the whole situation surrounding this part of the Ombudsman’s inquiry is rather suspect. There is not supposed to be the need for more evidence so what have the DWP to provide.

The inquiry has also taken fresh evidence from Mps on the 50s Women State Pension Inequality APPG arguing that the Ombudsman should get a minimum of £10,000 each. Their submission goes over ground already covered by complaints from the original six women who raised the issue.

On top of that it appears that Waspi Ltd and the Pension Reform Alliance are trying to dictate the agenda and exclude any argument for full restitution for 50s women. Some of their members have argued that even if full restitution is mentioned they won’t get any compensation at all.

Some 60 MPs have now backed a Parliamentary motion by Labour MP Ian Byrne calling for full restitution which is the position of BackTo60 and ” We Paid In You Pay Out ” women’s justice group. Some of the MPs who backed this are said to have had calls from Waspi groups asking them to withdraw their names as they told them they didn’t want full restitution.

While all this is going on there is another issue of whether and when the DWP will reply to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is relying on outdated legislation to handle this case and he cannot compel the DWP to reply by the end of next month.

DWP ignored deadlines in previous cases

The DWP has ignored deadlines set by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in previous pension issues. The most notable was a case over compensation for people who had not been properly informed that they would lose their index related guaranteed minimum pension if they worked in the private sector.

Robert Behrens gave the DWP three months to arrange notices for people to apply for compensation after he ruled that two complainants were entitled to it.. The DWP ignored the Ombudsman and TOOK NEARLY TWO YEARS before doing anything about it. The ministry also ignored his proposals for a remedy.

I have asked the DWP whether they will reply by the end of next month but have had no response to my question.

Instead they issued this statement:

“The Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.

“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.”

Back to 60 came back last night criticising the statement saying that their arguments for a judicial review were granted at the time and the Supreme Court used the argument that their case was ” out of time” for the court to hear it -not that the original arguments were wrong or else the judicial review would never have been granted in the first place.

The DWP is understood to feel it is inappropriate to comment further while the Ombudsman is investigating.

All this is yet another blow for these badly treated women who may still have to wait years before they see any money. Indeed by then the Ombudsman will have left. Under the outdated legislation the Ombudsman should retire from his post at the end of next month. But the government appear to have extended his term in office for another two years against what is laid down in the 1967 legislation.

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23 thoughts on “Exclusive: Parliamentary Ombudsman stalls maladministration investigation for 3.8 million 50s women denied pensions

  1. What is it with the DWP ? are they there just to harm people ? are they above the law? also why aren’t waspi working with the rest of us to get the best outcome?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What the hell is going on, one minute were are gathering pace for a conclusion, and compo and now we are going backwards, will the dwp please act faster, and just solve this massive indecency for us poor women

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The DWP workers are only following orders, they do not make the rules, its top civil servants or ministers from the treasury as well as the DWP who be scheming to avoid payment. Politicians today are your masters not your servants welcome to the Fascist state which the voters in their millions voted into power.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The DWP are an absolute joke and not a funny one either. we are being shafted right left and centre and there’s no solution whatsoever on the horizon nor never will be as it keeps getting dragged on and on and on so they don’t have to deal with it nor even think about compensation and yet we are still getting robbed i am supposed to be entitled to the full pension which is £769 and only got paid 718.40p last time. I have paid my full stamps and more in so why this discrepancy?? going to see what the next payment is and if its the same i will be on there case. Its hard enough being made to wait 6 years longer to claim it but to still keep being robbed after. Is totally unacceptable. and my husband is getting more state pension than I am. Its discrimination when we have both worked long and hard and paid full stamps. Equality Not!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just read your comment on your pension about your money being short . Only a suggestion. Don’t wait for the Nxt payment. I decided to check how much pension I would get in 18 mths . On looking it’s says I’m 2yrs short of stamps and would receive £50 a mth less . This is very strange because. I haven’t worked for over 4 yrs because of illness. And if that’s the case . I should be 2yrs in front with my stamps . It also tells me I’m in debt to them for not putting self employed accounts in . The Buisness in now in my ex partners sole name . And this was changed 4 yrs ago . I have heard . The system’s they are using and all out of date . Hence with the agro we are having with pension. And the mess ups people are having with wrong pavement’s . It has given them grace with covid for two years . Because nothing has been done . As you can’t get hold of anyone good luck

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Why is it waspi doesn’t want full restitution. And back to the 60 don’t . There are 3.8 million woman should have a vote on this . Otherwise the DWP can carry on making excuses. Especially if the woman can’t be seen as the can make decisions for themselves. The way it’s going most will never receive any pension’s . It amazes me . How the heck the ombudsman can let the DWP get away . With excuses after excuses. The difference between people wanting compensation are the ones . That have already got their pensions . But the people that want they pension’s reinstated. Are the one that are waiting for a full six years . And until the all join up together and all fight for the same thing . Then nothing will happen

    Liked by 1 person

  6. MR HENCKE I think we’ve asked you before to not discuss Pension Reform Alliance and waspi issues, unless you actually understand, or ask us what we do want. Please note that we never said we don’t want full restitution as of course we’d like that. Who wouldn’t? We have been advised there is no point in asking MPs to sign EDMs. Surprisingly from my own MP and another who supports the 1950s ladies. WE WILL NOT BE SHARING YOUR POSTS, OR CONTRIBUTING TO YOUR BLOGS UNLESS THEY START TO BE ACCURATE. That is all we have to say on this subject and if you continue to impune our group we will be taking it further. So kindly knock it on the head.

    On Fri, 25 Feb 2022, 21:09 Westminster Confidential, wrote:

    > davidhencke posted: ” Robert Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman Robert > Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has halted his maladministration > investigation until at least the end of next month leaving 3.8 million > women who have delayed pensions having to wait even longer to” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are you serious? David does not need your permission to write about these issues and who exactly are you going to “take it further” with”? Personally I think it is perfectly reasonable for PHSO to request additional information from DWP and give them time to respond. After all a thorough investigation is needed after which I expect there will be a recommendation of a public apology for the maladministration back in 2005/06. So as you will see I don’t agree with what David says but wouldn’t seek to silence him on that score. David is a journalist and these are matters of legitimate public interest.

      Like

      • Thanks for that Peter. We can disagree without resorting to threats or bans. I have also had warning tweets from some other people saying I had to take down any references to Waspi or the Pension Reform, Alliance or else which I have ignored. I won’t be intimidated by these people.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Julie Gardiner, you do not speak for me. I am a fully grown (65) woman and I am quite capable of speaking for myself.

      You do not have my permission to ‘take’ this anywhere on my behalf.

      Like

  7. The DWP tore up the Rule Book a long time ago. This is yet another example of wishing us 1950’s ladies gone and treating us with despicable contempt that we don’t deserve

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have watched the inevitable decline in the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s ability to perform his function as required by law and have made comment on your previous blogs of 27th January and 19th February (the latter relating to the treatment of whistleblower Dr.Chris Day). A few bullet points for your readers:

    1. Minutes of the PHSO Board dated 29th September 2021 – item 9.
    Increasing complexity of complaints and the impact this was having on caseworkers (no mention of impact on complainants)
    High level of attrition amongst caseworkers
    Difficulties experienced in recruiting staff

    2. Letter from Ombudsman to William Wragg MP, Chair of PACAC dated 21st February 2022 (available in correspondence section on PACAC website)
    Continuing not to investigate NHS complaints falling within Level 1 and 2 of Ombudsman’s Scale of Injustice. (note no mention of the recruitment and retention of staff highlighted in the Board minutes).

    3. In this latest article, you refer to the suggested blanket payment of £10,000. Your readers might like to know that this is the minimum annual sum paid to each of the 10 Non Executive Directors of the PHSO Board in 2020-21. The salary for being a member of the oversight board is in the £10,000-£15,000 range per annum (source PHSO annual report)

    4.Despite four requests to the Cabinet Office concerning the legality of the Ombudsman remaining in office after his term of office expires, the Cabinet Office has remained silent. It was Michael Gove who, in April 2021, first raised the proposal of ‘extending’ the Ombudsman’s tenure (contrary to Section 1 Parliamentary Commissioners Act 1967). Whilst Mr. Behrens legally holds the position until 31st March, it is by no means certain that after 31st March, he will lawfully be in office. Steve Barclay is now the Cabinet Office Minister responsible. We seem to have a government that is quick to call out Russia for breaking international law (and rightly so) yet refuses to explain the rationale for itself failing to comply with the Parliamentary Commissioners Act as you have so correctly identified in the last paragraph of your article.

    Taking an holistic view of these points it is easy to see why this ineffective quango of an Ombudsman service is left in place by government. The short answer is it suits them and the internal issues regarding staffing at PHSO can only exacerbate his delay in providing the final reports which, as you aver, the DWP will ignore because the Ombudsman, under the outdated legislation, has no power to make them respond. Nothing will change until there is a public inquiry into PHSO. It is no longer fit for purpose and I thank you for being one of the very few journalists who demonstrates some understanding of how the public is being conned on both the health and parliamentary aspects of his work.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ‘ I thank you for being one of the very few journalists who demonstrates some understanding of how the public is being conned on both the health and parliamentary aspects of his work.’

    Criticism of the Ombudsman is as rare as hen’s teeth! The Ombudsman is generally portrayed as a knight in shining armour. Some scandal emerges (usually only after years of hard campaigning by some individual or group) and the government wants to be seen to be doing something about it. ‘Don’t worry’ they tell us, ‘Rob Behrens is on to it.’ This reassures a lot of people. In the eyes of politicians it is a strength that the Ombudsman can be ineffective when required. Cue Ombudsman with statement lamenting his lack of powers.

    Here are some of the latest job vacancies the PHSO is seeking to fill. They include a Change Manager and a Talent Acquisition Manager. We are guaranteed to see improvements soon!

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/names_and_positions_of_senior_st#comment-102846

    An Expert Advisory Panel Member is also being sought. This is the panel where:

    ‘Rob Behrens has the ‘final say’ on key EAP issues and he also chairs the Board’ (see comment 30/3/21):

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/expert_advisory_panel#comment-103447

    :

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  10. As a complainant who has been unfortunate enough to use the PHSO services, you get one chance to supply your evidence to the Ombudsman and any further evidence is generally dismissed. Yet the body under investigation gets chance after chance to come up with more convincing evidence, but then they also have a publicly funded legal team to threaten court action. The whole system is broken and continually fails the public.

    Like

  11. I see th ethos that was beginning to emerge in the organisation when Ileft as a Senior Investigation Officer in 2007 has continued – rather than look for possible maladministration, find a reason not to investigate. What had also been noticeable was the growth of bureaucracy, an organisation top heavy in jobs with fancy titles, to the detriment of levels of investigation staff. When I began working at PHSO there was a small human resources department. This arranged advertising and recruitment of new staff and interviews. By the time I left the department had vastly expanded, had outsourced recruitment, and appeared to spend most of its time working on a complex performance review scheme. So complex was this that staff needa day’s training simply to complete the performance review form. Sad to see that the situaton has become even worse.

    Like

    • Like many others, I can back this up with worsening state continuing over three ombudspersons. Each makes out they’re taking a tiny step forward yet in real terms it’s a grossly conceited cover up taking steps backward in excuses and ‘reinterpretations’ of what they’re here to do. The lack of candour and creepiness of what goes on to deny evidence, defend negligence, and denigrate customers is tragic and is harming the country’s Services.

      Like

  12. ‘The whole system is broken and continually fails the public.’ Della

    But the PHSO has a powerful spin machine. Most people only realize the truth when the PHSO fails them. If a doctor saws of the wrong leg and the trust denies wrongdoing, you’ll have a fighting chance. Every complaint seems to be met with a new initiative designed to mask the fact that the PHSO is not fit for purpose. I may be wrong about this, but let’s see what the ‘new quality matrix’ delivers:

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/your_new_quality_matrix_phso_scr#outgoing-1261091

    Rob Behrens said: ‘The challenge is to see how long it takes for them to have an impact on complainant perspectives.’

    I am not sure that he is right to assume that complainants’ perspectives will be changed. Look out for the ‘super quality matrix’ from his successor!

    Like

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