Labour Conference: WASPI promise £10,000 minimum compensation for six million women pensioners but nobody is negotiating with them

WASPI held a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Liverpool this week. The organisation is campaigning to end women’s state pension equality and wants women born in the 1950s and 1960s to be compensated for them failure of the government to properly inform them of the effects of the six year delay from 60 to 66 in raising their pension age.

The meeting offered a great selection of Canapés-including dairy free ones for not a very big audience of 50 people- but I doubt anyone left any wiser on what would happen next. It took place with a running total banner showing over 203,573 of the women had died and the Treasury had saved over £3.1 billion by these deaths

Baroness Glenys Thornton the main guest pic credit Chris McAndrew

Angela Madden, Waspi’s campaign leader did put a figure on compensation for the pensioners for a one off payment -from £10,000 to £20,000 at.cost of £40 billion to £50 billion.

She told the audience that WASPI was still proceeding with a case with the Parliamentary Ombudsman to get compensation. But even with the support of the All Party Parliamentary Group for state pension inequality the maximum would be £10,000.

She gave the audience a very heavily edited version of the Ombudsman’s position saying he backed maladministration which boosted their case.

WASPI economical with the truth

In fact this was being very economic with the truth. The Ombudsman’s first report backed only partial maladministration which would automatically reduce compensation and was never challenged by Waspi. She made no reference to the second report which reduces compensation even further by saying people do not need to be compensated for financial loss only worry and confusion. And she made no reference to WASPI’s investigation into the alleged decision of the DWP’s Independent Case Examiner to destroy 2500 of the letters from complainants about their pension delay. You can read the still confidential report and the scandal at ICE on this site.

Worse she disclosed that Waspi had tried to meet government ministers to press their case but ministers would not even see them.

Labour were more diplomatic since the main speaker at the fringe was Baroness Glenys Thornton, the Lords shadow equalities minister. She repeated that Keir Starmer was sympathetic and wanted to compensate the women. But when it came to a £50 billion price tag she was not going to commit to that. Afterwards she told me she had to be “very cautious” in mentioning any sum at all.

She was much stronger on the plight of cold pensioners failing to keep warm during the present cost of living crisis and gave some advice on how campaigners could raise issues.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic journalism

Adding Insult to Injury: How another regulator dumped on 50swomen pensions complaints

Joanna Wallace, Independent Case Examiner for the DWP Pic Credit: Ombudsman Association

This is Joanna Wallace. She is the Independent Case Examiner for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Her latest annual report for 2020-21 – the one for the last financial year has not yet been published promises “a free independent complaints review service for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and their contracted services “. It says it will “act as an independent adjudicator if a complainant considers that they have not been treated fairly or have not had their complaints dealt with in a satisfactory manner; and to support service improvements by providing constructive comment and meaningful recommendations.”

Her report also boasts “To deliver a first rate service provided by professional staff.”

For its handling of 50swomen pension complaints it has provided nothing of the sort. To investigate this I have drawn on the findings of the confidential Parliamentary Ombudsman’s second report into maladministration over the delay in the payment of women’s pensions. There has also been an alleged development that suggests that she has destroyed all the evidence submitted by complainants.

For a start its claim to be independent is questionable. It works under a contract set by the DWP and has to apply DWP rules set by ministers in Parliamentary legislation. It has no independent web address using the dwp one. It is based in Bootle round the corner from Liverpool jobcentre and in the same road as the Health and Safety Executive.

But more serious is its record. In 2020-21 4,205 people complained to it about the DWP everything from pensions, universal credit, disability benefits to child maintenance. Of these nearly 3000 were rejected without any investigation and only 146 of the remaining 1013 cases were fully upheld. Another 338 were partial upheld and 350 were rejected. A number of others fell by the wayside.

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

So it is perhaps not surprising that 50swomen would be given short shrift by Ms Wallace. The Ombudsman’s report about their handling of the women’s complaints is very revealing. The report says:

“ICE told us it received ‘an unprecedented volume’ of complaints about DWP’s communication about State Pension age, and it received no additional resources to deal with them. ” In other words the DWP made doubly sure it did not have the money to properly investigate

The report said; ” the vast majority of complainants used a standard template. ICE selected a ‘lead case’ (one of our sample complainant’s complaints) for investigation and then applied its findings in that case to each of the cases it investigated.” In other words just one complainant was examined in detail and its findings applied to the rest. Altogether 192 were looked at, the remaining 2300 complaints were never examined once a judicial review was granted by the courts to look into the failure of the DWP’s actions and inequality of its policies towards 50swomen over this issue.

The complainants case fell at the first hurdle since ICE took as standard what the DWP later justified in the judicial review that the 1995 Pensions Act made no provision for it to tell anyone. Once the DWP took that view ICE had to abide by its contract with the DWP.

As the Ombudsman reports : “It found there was no requirement for DWP to inform women of changes to their State Pension age, and that DWP had no standards for communicating changes about State Pension.”

It concluded: “as DWP had not committed to communicating changes to State Pension age individually to those affected, and given that accurate information was available on request, DWP not notifying women personally from 1995 onwards did not amount to maladministration. “

Women complaining to ICE thought they were being treated as liars

What is worse is ICE’s attitude towards 50swomen who complained they had never received the letter

which some complainants saw as treating them as liars.

The Ombudsman reports: “ICE concluded that it was more likely than not letters had been sent to complainants, at the correct address,” citing when people were written to in 2012 – some 17 years after the legislation was passed.

The ombudsman reports: “DWP has no record of who it wrote to or when, meaning that information was never available to ICE.  So, there is not enough evidence to support ICE’s conclusion it was more likely than not DWP wrote to complainants who have said they never received a letter.  What ICE should have said in the circumstances is that it could not determine whether or not DWP sent letters to the individual complainants at the time it wrote to people in their age group. “

The Ombudsman then lets ICE off the hook by saying ,” we do not think the shortcomings in its handling of this issue were significant enough to be a failure to ‘get it right’ on this occasion.”  

There is one extraordinary allegation following this report which is being investigated by WASPI.

According to Kay Clarke, who is the founder member of 1950sWOW (Women of Wales)and beyond, co -founder PP4J & Cardiff WASPI, ICE have now admitted in a letter that it has destroyed all 2,500 records of complaints.

She told me: “I can give assurance that the letter exists and quite categorically affirm the facts.”

I have not seen the letter but I have contacted ICE for a comment about this. They have not replied nor even acknowledged the email I sent.

If this is the fact the combination of the DWP not recording who complained to them and ICE destroying all the evidence of their complaints will make it very difficult for any of the 50swomen to claim anything should eventually they be awarded compensation by the Ombudsman.

Yet another hurdle in this sorry saga has been put in place.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic investigations.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

Backto60 takes The Great Pension Robbery to the Edinburgh fringe

Backto60 brought their campaign for full restitution to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe over the Bank Holiday weekend with the help of two Scottish women actors and comedians.

For half an hour at Edinburgh’s St Andrews Square Sandra McNeely and Julie Coombe, who are well known on Scottish TV, tell the tough story of the fight for 3.8 million 50s born women to get full restitution for their lost pensions when successive governments increased the pension age from 60 to 66 with all the facts, interspersed with songs, poetry and jokes.

The no holds bar performance castigated everyone from George Osborne, the former Chancellor to Guy Opperman, the current pensions minister, and of course, Boris Johnson. It gave a really good synopsis of injustice facing this group of women ending with the sad fact that during the half hour performance two more women would have died without ever receiving their pension.

Sandra McNeely has appeared in the TV series, Taggart, Happy Hollidays, Scot Squad, and the drama Ashes available on Amazon Prime.

Julie Coombe has appeared on TV in Hope Springs and on stage recently in Lena! and Hormonal Housewives.

Both are very supportive of the Backto60 campaign and gave pro bono performances with the aim of spreading the word to festival fringe audiences. You can watch the video above.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my reporting.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£3.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

WASPI finally issues a statement on the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report – but keeps its supporters in the dark on its dire findings

Reaction from a 50s woman to the first report of the Ombudsman

Waspi, one of the organisations seeking compensation for women born in the 1950s, has finally broken its silence on the second stage of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s investigation into maladministration at the Department of Work and Pensions.

A statement on its site reads:

“the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has now circulated a provisional draft of its second report, on the emotional and financial impact of that maladministration, to complainants – but has done so on condition of confidentiality.

The report follows the PHSO’s findings last year that “The opportunity that additional notice would have given them [WASPI women] to adjust their retirement plans was lost… Despite having identified there was more it could do, it failed to provide the public with as full information as possible.” The Ombudsman’s office additionally encouraged DWP to be “proactive” in finding a remedy for the women affected.

WASPI is now taking legal advice on the contents of the draft second report and how best to respond to the PHSO before they finalise the report. Subject to that advice, WASPI will respond on behalf of the Campaign, and we state again the following points:

A fuller statement of our position is on our website https://www.waspi.co.uk/…/waspi-statement-to-phsos…/

It remains a political decision by government not to heed the PHSO’s advice to be ‘proactive’ in finding a remedy to this injustice. THANK YOU to everyone who has signed our open letter to the two Conservative leadership candidates on this subject. Please do sign if you haven’t already and ask family and friends to do so too. We aim to reach 20,000 signatures by the end of this week. You can find the link to the letter on the website too.

We will be sure to keep you informed of developments.”

Rob Behrens Parliamentary Ombudsman

It is good that they are taking legal advice about the report but their lawyers are going to work very hard to refute parts of the report. Issues like everyone knew about the pension change but their members didn’t understand what it meant for them or the fact that the report says maladministration was not responsible for financial losses or bad health of their members. See my blog on what the report says.

Their statement also glosses over that it is only partial maladministration for just 28 months -from 2006 to 2009 – over whole period from 1995 to 2010. Both these issues point to a much lower level of compensation – hence I suppose their campaign to end the process of seeking compensation and just get a quick one off payment. The problem with that is the government knows that the Ombudsman is backing down on seeking compensation for bad health and financial losses. Potential Tory PM’s Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have said they are not interested.

Old canard of claims people wanted the pension age lowered to 60

I am also a bit amazed that the organisation repeats the old canard that they don’t want the pension age reduced to 60. Nobody has wanted that to my knowledge – the nearest was a suggestion of equalising pension ages of men and women to 63. What Backto60 wanted was full restitution for the money lost by the decision -not a reduction in the pension age to 60.

One really wonders what the six people who brought the maladministration complaints think about this -even if they have to keep a vow of silence -which I do not -on the findings. I gather WASPI has not bothered to consult them but gone on its own agenda and gagged them from talking about it. Basically all I can see is a huge group of women being let down by everybody in sight, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ombudsman and now Waspi hiding behind a veil of secrecy.

In the long run this will be seen as one of the great betrayals. But in the long term there will be a reversal of these attitudes – the UN Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women will prevail. In the meantime there will be a cracking report soon from the CEDAWinLAW tribunal on this issue – a tribunal that the deputy chair of the UN Convention, came from Geneva to give evidence. The darkest hour is always before the dawn.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic work.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

Exclusive: Leaked Parliamentary Ombudsman report blames 50s Women for not understanding they would have to wait six more years for a pension

It says the 3.8 million affected by the six year delay can’t blame DWP maladministration for their financial losses and bad health

Rob Behrens Parliamentary Ombudsman Pic credit PHSO

The second stage of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s investigation into maladministration at the Department for Work and Pensions in failing to inform 3.8 million women born in the 1950s has dealt a devastating blow to their hopes of any meaningful compensation.

The confidential 298 paragraph provisional report, seen by me, is meant to analyse whether the maladministration finding means the women could be entitled to compensation following the first inquiry finding of maladministration for a 28 month period after 2006 The answer is very little and miles away from the £50,000 full restitution demanded in the courts by the Backto60 campaign

The report is also damning for the cause of the Waspi campaign who put all their resources into expecting the Ombudsman to come to the rescue. It is plain from the reading of the provisional report that he has no intention of doing so. This why I suspect Waspi have sent a desperate letter to the two Tory leadership candidates asking for a one off payment. When whoever wins gets round to seeing this Ombudsman’s report they won’t need to bother. The report contains no recommended figures for compensation. That will be in the next report.

The first paragraph of the report knocks down -one of the central planks of the 50swomen case- that nobody really realised the 1995 Pensions Act really meant the pension age for women was rising from 60 to 65 15 years later.

It reads:” 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

Everybody knew about the pensions changes says report

Instead it blames the women themselves for not realising their impending losses while the rest of the UK knew exactly what was going on. Really?

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.

The report then emphasises that people had a choice in the old pension system – to pay for an additional pension on top of the basic state pension – but some chose to contract out of this. This is in fact not entirely true as some employers contracted them out of this scheme -so they would not have to contribute. As a result when the new pension came in in 2016 – some of these women will not get the full pension even though they have contributed for years.

The report then follows the Department of Work and Pensions line that this really doesn’t matter as everybody in the UK will be better off under the new pension than the old one. This is the same line the DWP used not to compensate people promised a Guaranteed Minimum Pension though millions lost out. But as I have said before this is a false comparison because everybody gets this new pension level whether they need to be compensated or not.

Maladministration did not cause financial consequences

It then turns to the issue of the hardship caused to the women by this long wait. The report said:

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.

Instead it sticks to the argument that a 28 month delay in writing to women from December 2006 to April 2009 left ” 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.”

Changes just caused worry and confusion for some

Instead it found the maladministration caused worry and confusion and emotional stress.

This finding is crucial to the level of compensation – actual financial loss and bad health command a much higher level of compensation than worry and confusion. This finding is a real blow to those thinking they are going to get a meaningful pay out.

Finally the report exonerates the role of the Independent Case examiner (ICE) ruling out any compensation for people dissatisfied with its work.

“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’”

Now there are two issues worth adding. The public statement from the Parliamentary Ombudsman completely glosses over the real meat of this report.

It says: We have shared the provisional views for the second stage of the investigation with complainants, their MPs, DWP and ICE. They now have an opportunity to provide comment.

It also promises to speed up the investigation and publish this report with its final report recommending levels of compensation, which has been welcomed by some MPs.

But remember you are reading this report one year before the Parliamentary Ombudsman wants you to know its contents. You now have an opportunity to comment on my website just like the organisations listed above.

Ombudsman report pulls the rug under the Waspi campaign

The second is the claim in the open letter to the two Tory candidates fighting to be PM. Now signed by over 15,000 people which asks people to pledge for a one off single payment:

” Our simple, pragmatic ask is that ministers open a dialogue with us about a one-off compensation payment to make up for the financial loss and emotional trauma caused to women born in the 1950s, as a result of the maladministration at the DWP in the period 2008-2012.”

The problem for all these people is that unfortunately for them the Parliamentary Ombudsman report has pulled the rug from under their feet- by ruling out compensation for financial losses.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential so I can continue my forensic reporting

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

DWP dumps on disabled claimants by rejecting plans to give them more say and rights over benefits

Chloe Smith, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work

The Department for Work and Pensions has turned down some innovative proposals from its own advisory body, the Social Security Advisory Committee, to give disabled people more say in the benefit system.

The response to a report from the committee made over a year ago came in the last few days of the Parliament with an explanation from Chloe Smith, the minister.

Not only does her reply do an injustice to disabled people but heavily reflects the corporate approach inside the ministry which in my view, does not treat people claiming benefits as independent human beings who might have something to contribute to the running of the service.

Having a protocol for engagement is ” bureaucratic “

Typical of today’s government responses Chloe Smith cherry picks parts of the report which fit in with DWP’s grand corporate plan to digitalise everything – while ignoring other more challenging proposals to help the disabled.

The SSAC report- full details here – suggests the government should formalise engagement procedures with disabled people – giving them a chance to put their own views into how the benefit system could help them. The government rejects this as ” bureaucratic” while claiming it engages in meaningful discussions. The problem with this is that the government chooses what it wants to consult about and ignores issues it doesn’t.

The second recommendation was that the ministry should provide regular updates on its engagement with disabled people. The ministry rejects this on the grounds it already provides details of quarterly ministerial meetings with who attended under existing transparency rules ( I wonder how many disabled people search this out ). It certainly doesn’t want this extended to officials using the rather curious argument that “we need to recognise that some stakeholders or users may not want to be identified as having worked with the Department and we do not want to compromise open and honest dialogue.”

Really? Given the ministry publish the people who attend ministerial meetings on the disabled this seems rather contradictory.

A panel for disabled people ” not value for money”

The third rejected recommendation is a proposal to recruit some representative disabled people who experience the benefit system to act as a panel to raise issues. The Department responded:

 “Creating and maintaining a representative panel across all disability benefits is unlikely to offer value for money as it would require continuous oversight and recruitment. Given the wide range of policies the Department is responsible for, which will be of interest to different groups in society, we think having the flexibility to tailor our engagement will lead to more meaningful insight than using a standing panel. Any findings from such a panel would only be indicative and could not be used for robust evaluation to assess the impact or effect of any single policy intervention.”

The ministry did accept the fourth recommendation – the use of accessible technology – which would allow video interviews between staff and claimants – and is being trialled for Universal Credit . But that fits in with its modernisation plan.

It went on to reject a proposal to include a clause insisting on how private contractors – which do a lot of work for the DWP in assessments and interviews for disabled people – should engage with disabled people. This is a controversial issue – the Northern Ireland Ombudsman is currently investigating allegations of bad practice by contractors assessing people for benefits. But the department claims to include it would be subject to legal challenge by contractors during the bidding process for the work. Frankly if the private firms don’t want this if they want to do this type of work, it suggests to me their motives for doing the job are questionable.

The ministry also accepted a recommendation that its services should be more accessible for disabled people – and listed achievements in that area – again in line with their corporate plan.

Finally the ministry half accepted a recommendation for more leadership inside the department to enable disabled people and other claimants to have greater input but rejected appointing a non executive director to co-ordinate such a process. Instead it said it should be Chloe Smith, the present minister should do this as part of her job.

Minister’s complacent response

The covering letter from the minister said: “I am pleased to see the progress we have made in engaging with disabled people recognised in the Committee’s report. I share the Committee’s view on the importance of keeping the voices of disabled people at the heart of health and disability policy development and delivery. However, I do not agree with several of the Committee’s recommendations because I believe that we can achieve the outcomes of sustained, meaningful engagement with disabled people in ways other than those identified in the report.”

In my view the report reflects the current complacency and culture in the ministry – shown by the lack of engagement in the past over the raising of the pension age for 1950s women and the management’s top down attitude in not wanting to engage directly with pensioners, mainly women, who have been underpaid their pensions.

Incidently, in researching Chloe Smith for this article I came across a rather extraordinary story about her marriage partner, Sandy MacFadzean, a financial consultant. In September 2020 he dismissed those suffering from Covid 19 as having a ” mental illness”. He held such strong views that he went on a march run by Piers Corbyn when gatherings of more than 30 people were banned and retweeted a poster for it on his now closed Twitter account condemning social distancing, wearing face masks and opposing the mass vaccination of the population. The story was picked up by the Eastern Daily Press.

The minister defended his right to freedom of speech but said she disagreed with his stance. The discussions in their household must have been fascinating during the long pandemic.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential so I can continue my forensic reporting.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

Can the DWP’s newest feminist recruit give the ” shambolic” ministry a more people friendly face?

Elizabeth Fairburn,(right) now the Department for Work and Pensions new customer experience director

Last week I watched the polite questioning by MPs of the top officials from the Department of Work and Pensions about their latest published accounts – which I have already lambasted in a blog here.

At this hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee – see this link – once again Peter Schofield, the permanent secretary – had to apologise to the nation’s pensioners for the ministry’s failure to rectify the underpayment of pensions to hundreds of thousands of pensioners, some who may still have to wait until 2024 to get their money. He promised 1000 more staff -having started with just 100 people – to sort out this scandal.

Once again – it is the 34th year in a row – the top officials had failed to balance the books – because of benefit fraud and error reaching record levels. Again it was promised that this will be sorted – we shall see whether this is really true next year.

Peter Schofield, DWP permanent secretary

But the most interesting aspect of the hearing was a new face on the block. She is Elizabeth Fairburn, who is the customer experience director at the DWP. She has been recruited from Direct Line Insurance as the head of claims response – where she deals with insurance claims from customers. She is quite obviously not a career civil servant unlike Peter Schofield, her boss whose cv shows, apart from a secondment to 3i, is a mandarin to his fingertips.

What is even more interesting she is a firm campaigner for women. She recently gave an interview to mark International Women’s Day this year with Gatenby Sanderson, a head hunting agency recruiting executives for the public sector ( recent appointments included the chief executive officer of the National Cancer Research Institute and the people’s director for the London Fire Brigade).

I have reproduced it at the top of this blog. As well as talking about her career, she is committed to equal pay for women, proper career paths for women who return to work after looking after children and most importantly women having real self belief in themselves and not being put down by men. She also is a coach for women to believe in themselves.

Can Elizabeth Fairburn do anything for claimants and pensioners?

But can she do anything for the millions of claimants and pensioners who have to endure using the DWP? She admits in the interview that she knew little about the working of the organisation.

At the hearing she made some interesting comments. She told MPs:

:”We are mapping out the plans and trying to piece things together. It is a big Department, and I am trying to get my head around a lot of things. I can see some real opportunities in how we could use different approaches to map out the journey from a customer’s point of view, which would help us as the civil service understand what that looks like and therefore where we can make improvements. Peter [‘Schofield] has already referenced the work that we are doing on digital and automation, which is a real opportunity, but we cannot automate processes that are clunky or difficult. We have got to review those, simplify them and then make them available on a digital solution to encourage customers to “engage with us.

On communicating with pensioners, particularly those owed money she told MPs:

“I have a team within customer experience who are continually looking at the communications that we send to customers to make sure that they are simple. Obviously, we are reliant on listening and learning techniques, such as what we see through complaints, to identify where to look. When we see those things, we can simplify the processes, and potentially the communications to customers, to help them with that and keep them updated.”

On stopping people’s benefits she said she had a team of 36 people checking the vulnerability of people before they did this:

“They are there proactively to support the wider DWP in identifying and signposting support for our customers with the most complex needs. In the example you were just talking about, my team work closely with Bozena’s [Bozena Hillyer in charge of counter fraud and compliance] team and, when there is a difficult decision to make about stopping someone’s benefit because of potential fraud, my team are there to support the frontline to say, “Have you considered X, Y or Z to ensure that we are doing the right things for our customers and making the right decisions?”

Egregious frightening letter from the DWP to a pensioner

Can she make a difference? As this blog has shown some of the communications have been egregious. Like the one I featured last August to pensioner Rosie Brocklehurst when the department was conducting a pension review which said: ““If you fail to be available for this review and do not contact me, your entitlement to State Pension may be in doubt and your payments may be stopped.”

This was , of course, totally untrue – the department can’t stop anybody’s pension.

So at the moment the jury will be out on how successful Elizabeth Fairburn will be in changing the culture. But I will be watching to see if this determined woman from Leeds can make a difference or not. Her Linked In self description describes her as “A passionate, energetic and inspiring people leader, renowned for the ability to champion change and transformation especially in underperforming teams or functions with a need for significant cultural revolution. “

Watch this space to see if this is true for the DWP.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic journalism

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00


My evidence to the CEDAW in LAW Tribunal this month on the egregious plight of 50s women and their lost pensions

Giving evidence to CEDAW in LAW tribunal

Earlier this month I gave evidence to a tribunal set up by CEDAW in LAW presided over by Australian judge Jocelynne Scutt on the situation affecting 3.8 million women who have had to wait an extra six years to get their pension.

My evidence tries to explain how this situation came about going back to 1988 when the government decided to end Treasury contributions (except when the fund was in the red) to the National Insurance Fund starving it of money to pay out pensions. Given pensions are paid out of current contributions the fund would have built up a very healthy surplus – enough for both higher pensions for everybody later and avoided the current raising of the pension age. Given the UK has one of the lowest state pensions in Europe this would have been a very good improvement.

My evidence also showed how successive governments failed to properly tell the women affected how they would lose their pensions for five and later six years under the 1995, 2008 and 2011 Pensions Acts.

And it reveals how men were treated differently after Margaret Thatcher in 1983 decided to pay the national insurance contributions for men from 60 to 65 to keep them from claiming unemployment benefits. This lasted until 2018 and was available for 9.8 million men. Women born in the 1950s were promised this from 2010 but it was never implemented.

Failure to remedy

Also I strongly criticise the failure to remedy this in both the courts and through the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Supreme Court would not hear the case and Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has given half hearted support to maladministration claims for part of the period. On top of that the All Party Parliamentary Group on state pension inequality has been ineffective, relying on the Ombudsman to present the women’s case rather than directly intervening as MPs to pressurise the government.

The tribunal also heard from a number of women who described the devastating effect this wait had on their lives and from Elgun Safarov, the vice chairperson of the United Nations Convention of the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women Committee.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to continue my work and investigations.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

Delegates from UK’s biggest public service union back a Bill of Rights to end once and for all discrimination against women

The short snippet above from Unison delegate Lianne Dallimore is the moment the 1.3 million member Unison trade union came out in favour of backing implementing the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women into UK law.

This is a very important move as the union will be the first big organisation to endorse a policy that will require women to get equal pay, equal rights to pensions, rights to child care fast and finally put an end to the painfully slow progress there has been to grant women equal rights to men.

Unison banners; pic credit: unison.org

Unison is one of the largest trade unions in the UK It has a woman general secretary, Christina McAnea and women outnumber men as members by a huge majority. There are over one million women members to 300,000 men. Most of its members are among the lowest paid in the country whether they are teaching assistants,, dinner ladies, low paid NHS staff or local authority workers.

Unison is also an influential union in the Labour movement and in the Labour Party. So its delegates decision to endorse such a policy will now mean the national executive committee will have to decide whether to back it. If it does the Shadow Cabinet will have to sit up and take notice – and it will put pressure on Labour to include a promise to do so in their next party manifesto. Angela Rayner, the deputy party leader, has previously backed implementing Cedaw.

The full motion read;

Conference we call on the National Executive Council to:

1) Work with National Labour Link and the national women’s committee to develop a comprehensive campaign for the implementation of CEDAW into domestic legislation;

2) Work with Learning and Organising Services (LAOS) on developing a training and awareness package on CEDAW for activists and members;

3) Report back to National Delegates Conference 2023 on progress made.

North Cumbria Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Health

It also comes at an opportune moment as Boris Johnson’s government is under fire from the United Nations for taking far too long to implement a convention that Margaret Thatcher signed up to in 1986.

The Labour Party went part of the way introducing the Equality Act, which became law in 2010 – but it is still a half hearted piece of legislation – more bark than bite. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has gone further by including in her last manifesto a promise of legislation implementing it in full.

But she is up against Boris Johnson – who shows not the slightest interest in this issue – and has blocked at the Supreme Court any chance of Scotland introducing a parallel law implementing the UN convention on the rights of the child, which the UK has also ratified but not properly implemented.

The decision by Unison at its delegate conference, which endorses a report prepared by Dr Jocelynne Scutt, President of the Cedaw Tribunal, that calls for sweeping reforms to radically change the position of women in society – from immediate equal pay to ending the long running sore that has bedevilled 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who had to wait six years to get their pensions and were never properly informed by the change.

Ground breaking issue

Last year the CEDAW People’s Tribunal was held. his was a ground breaking tribunal backed by Garden Court Chambers where academics, activists and women’s rights experts produced a wide range of evidence-based policies to end women’s discrimination.

The union’s backing is an important development for CEDAWinLAW which I am a patron, to get this issue on the agenda.

Last year some detractors, sadly a number of them professional women, tried to rubbish the CEDAW People’s Tribunal as though the whole hearing was a waste of time and space. They would rather keep women in their place than fight for change.

Another tribunal hearing on the way

Next month CEDAWinLAW will hold another tribunal to specifically look again at the issue of 50s women and their loss of a pension and how it happened.

In the meantime the action by Unison delegates will only spur women who want change now – not dragged out for decades – to continue the fight.

Please donate to my blog to allow me to continue my forensic coverage.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

Manifesto: How Labour Party activists fought for Socialism in Liverpool and the bitter sweet results that followed

Poster for the new film

Manifesto is a new film out this week that explores in depth local Labour Party activists and their fight to get a Labour government elected in the December 2019 general election.

It is an unusual film as it covers a constituency – Liverpool, Walton – ignored by the national media -concentrating on the passion of grass roots activists in one of the poorest parts in Britain. It is also Labour’s safest seat.

The film conveys the idealism of the campaigners and how the last Labour manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn would have meant real change for the people of Walton – many relying on free school meals and food banks – by providing better schools, a better NHS, more worker’s rights and better wages. But it was not to be. Instead Labour lost the general election in the fog of the Brexit row where unknown bureaucrats in Brussels were scapegoated as holding the working class back and depriving them of their ” freedoms”.

A street in Walton. Still from the film

The prism the director Daniel Draper ( who was born and grew up in Walton) uses is to tell the tale through the eyes and voices of local activists -a group that are normally completely ignored.

He intersperses their views with quotes from Robert Tressell’s work The Ragged -Trousered Philanthropists – regarded by George Orwell as a ” book everyone should read”. This tells a semi autobiographical story of a house painter’s struggle to get work in Edwardian England. He died from TB in Liverpool Royal Infirmary and was buried in a pauper’s grave in the city. The link between today’s activists and his legacy is vividly portrayed in one scene in the film.

He also intersperses the dialogue with stills of part of the constituency showing the poverty and both neat and neglected streets.

A thoughtful Ian Byrne during the 2019 election count. Still from the film

The result is a bitter sweet documentary. The campaigning in Liverpool was a great success – with both Parliamentary candidates who are on the left of the party, Dan Carden ( Liverpool Walton) and Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby) returned with thumping majorities.

But in the rest of the country Labour lost badly -including two seats Walton activists were sent to help the party in Blackpool and Crewe.

Since then internal struggles in the Labour Party -including in Liverpool – have divided Labour activists and I am pretty certain Liverpool Walton is not a priority for the new leader Sir Keir Starmer – precisely because it is such a safe seat where Labour voters are taken for granted.

But in my view this would be a mistake. Labour has always been a broad church and the hopes, aspirations and frankly, eternal optimism to create a better society from the people portrayed in this film should not be ignored or squandered by party bosses in London.. The present mess and chaos we are in under this Tory government is too bitter a pill to swallow not only for the voters of Liverpool Walton but for everyone else. As Dan Carden, the MP for Walton said on the film before the result: “We can’t afford another five years of Tory government.”

Dan Carden during the campaign Still from the film

Initial screenings:

16 June: Picturehouse At FACT, Liverpool (Q&A: MP Ian Byrne, activist Alan Gibbons, director Daniel Draper, hosted by Ross Quinn)

16 June: Glasgow Film Theatre (Q&A: MSP Paul Sweeney & former MSP Neil Findlay, hosted by Ruth Gilbert)

17 June: Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle (Q&A: MP Ian Lavery, Laura Pidcock from People’s Assembly, activist Ben Sellers, director Daniel Draper)

30 June: Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds (Q&A: MP Richard Burgon & director Daniel Draper)

DATE TBC: Savoy Cinema, Nottingham (Q&A: MP Nadia Whittome & director Daniel Draper)

3 August: Duke’s At Komedia, Brighton (Q&A: MP Lloyd Russell Moyle & director Daniel Draper)

Further details of other venues including two in London will be on this link https://www.shutoutthelight.co.uk/manifesto

Please Donate to Westminster Confidential to help me continue my forensic investigations and different coverage.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00