My reporting and coverage of the confidential provisional Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Report into the maladministration has caused considerable controversy particularly among the people at the top of Waspi. People who follow me on Backto60 have been very grateful for keeping them informed. People on Waspi have objected to me publishing it at all and have kept their members in the dark about its contents. Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, is constrained by law from publishing it while his investigation continues. People at the top of Waspi have accused me of only publishing snippets which undermine Waspi’s case.
To dispel any doubts here is the full summary of his findings (the report is 298 paragraphs long) – though there is a link in a comment on my previous blog to the full report in the comments section. You can see the Ombudsman makes it clear that maladministration over a 28 month period ” caused complainants unnecessary stress and anxiety and meant an opportunity to lessen their distress was lost. For some complainants, it also caused unnecessary worry and confusion.” But it rejects that ” this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.”
In other words it has no intention of compensating people who have lost up to £50,000 through the changes or anywhere near this. Need I say more. Here is the summary.
Reference: SPA (stage 2) Complained about: Department for Work and Pensions Independent Case Examiner
The issues we are considering and our provisional views
- In July 2021 we issued the report for stage one of our investigation into complaints about the adequacy of DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age, and associated issues. We found that maladministration led to a delay in DWP writing directly to women about changes to their State Pension age.
- We are now working on stage two of our investigation. This stage is considering complaints about:
- DWP’s communication of changes to the number of qualifying years National Insurance contributions required for a full State Pension
- DWP’s complaint handling
- the Independent Case Examiner’s (ICE’s) handling of complaints about DWP’s communication of State Pension age changes.
- It is also considering the impact of any failings by DWP and ICE, including the injustice arising from the maladministration identified during stage one of our investigation.
- This document sets out:
- a summary of our provisional views
- the evidence we are considering
- our analysis so far of DWP’s communication of changes to National
Insurance qualifying years, including o background
- what should have happened – the relevant standards
- what did happen o our provisional views
- our analysis so far of DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling, including o what should have happened – the relevant standards
- what did happen o our provisional views
our analysis so far of injustice
Summary of our provisional views
- The evidence we have seen so far suggests timely and accurate information was available about the change in eligibility criteria for a State Pension, including how someone’s National Insurance record links to how much State Pension they can claim once they reach State Pension age. Research showed the majority of people knew about the changes.
- However, research also showed that too many people did not understand their own situations and how State Pension reform affected them. The gap between awareness and understanding was highlighted by the Work and Pensions Committee and the National Audit Office. DWP does not appear to have used research and feedback to improve its service and performance. In this respect, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good administration. We think that was maladministration. However, we do not think this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.
- Before 2016, people built up ‘qualifying years’ towards a Basic State Pension by paying National Insurance or through, for example, receiving benefits credits towards their National Insurance record. Some people paid National Insurance to build up entitlement to an earnings-related State Pension on top of the Basic State Pension. The earnings-related State Pension was called the Additional State Pension.
- Not everyone paid National Insurance towards the Additional State Pension. Some people who joined personal or occupational pension schemes ‘contracted out’ of the Additional State Pension when they joined those schemes. While they continued to build up qualifying years for a Basic State Pension, they gave up their entitlement to the Additional State Pension. So, a person who had always contracted out would have been entitled to the Basic State Pension and their personal or occupational pension when they reached State Pension age, instead of being entitled to the Basic State Pension and Additional State Pension.
- From April 2016, the new State Pension replaced the Basic State Pension and the Additional State Pension. The full rate of the new State Pension is higher than the full rate of the old Basic State Pension. People who were contracted out of the Additional State Pension before April 2016 but have reached or will reach State Pension age after April 2016 may not be eligible for the full rate of new State Pension. A ‘contracted out deduction’ is made when calculating their starting amount of new State Pension to reflect the fact they contributed less into the National Insurance system in return for a personal or occupational pension.
- Transitional arrangements introduced with the new State Pension mean that none of the complainants – or people like them – will get less State Pension under the ‘new’ rules introduced in April 2016 than they would have got under the ‘old’ ones. DWP compares what they would have been entitled to under the old system and what they are entitled to under the new system, and they get the higher of these amounts. The transitional arrangements also allow them to do things to add to their starting amount of new State Pension if it is lower than the full rate. Having considered the complainants’ individual circumstances, we do not think they have lost any opportunities to add to their starting amount.
- We also do not think maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age more likely than not led to all the financial, health, domestic and emotional consequences complainants claim. Complainants told us they made choices they would not have made if they had known their State Pension age had changed, and described the financial, family and health consequences those choices have had. However, some of their choices had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them about changes resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act. We do not think women lost opportunities to make different decisions, if those decisions had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them.
- However, we think an additional 28 months’ notice would have given complainants opportunities to consider, for example, saving, looking for work or changing job. While there is too much we cannot now know for us to be able say what would have happened, it seems that some women are left not knowing whether they could have been in a different financial position, and whether they could have avoided the health and emotional consequences they claim. We think that not knowing is an injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.
- We also think the anger and outrage complainants feel about not having as much notice of their State Pension age as they should have, could have been avoided if DWP had written to them when it should have. Their sense of anger and outrage is a further injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.
- We think some aspects of DWP’s complaint handling reflected applicable standards. But, DWP does not appear to have adequately investigated or responded to the complaints it was considering, or avoided unnecessary delay. In these respects, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good complaint handling. We think that was also maladministration.
- We think maladministration in DWP’s complaint handling caused complainants unnecessary stress and anxiety and meant an opportunity to lessen their distress was lost. For some complainants, it also caused unnecessary worry and confusion.
- We think ICE’s complaint handling reflected applicable standards and guidance. ICE appears to have acted within the scope of its remit, which is set out in its contract with DWP. We note, however, our view that the contract meant ICE could not address complainants’ key concern that they did not have as much personal notice of changes to their State Pension age as they should have.
- Finally, we think ICE should have said that it could not determine whether or not DWP had written to individual complainants who said they had never received a letter about their State Pension age, instead of telling them it was more likely than not they had been sent a letter. But even if ICE had appropriately balanced the evidence in this way, we do not think the shortcoming in its handling of this issue was significant enough to be a failure to ‘get it right’.
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