The growing scandal of the multi billion pound payments owed to pensioners and claimants by the DWP

Readers of my blog will be familiar with the scandalous story of the billions owed to 50s born women who both suffered maladministration and direct discrimination over the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66.

But what has emerged over the past year appears to show that this is part of a pattern where pensioners and disabled people are frankly swindled out of their money by the incompetence, maladministration and meanness of top management and politicians who run the Department for Work and Pensions.

Far from the 50swomen being an isolated case where mistakes were made those at the top of the DWP administration appear to have a playbook to deprive people of their rightful pensions and benefits, especially if they happen to be women. Nearly all the cases hit women much worse than men and as I have highlighted before – men have had privileges denied to women – such as the long running auto enrolment scheme that allowed men to have their national insurance contributions paid by the state from 60 to 65 while denying women any such privileges.

One of the worse cases which saved the state billions was a decision not to pay out extra pensions to people whose firms had contracted them out of Serps – an old style second pension- so they lost out of a Guaranteed Minimum Pension still payable in the public sector. A lot will have been women

The blog I wrote on this – despite being fiendishly complicated to explain- attracted over 15,000 hits – yet only two people got any compensation as the DWP made it difficult to claim.

Time to sign this petition

Christopher Thompson, a retired expert on this, has put up a petition to Parliament to protest about this and restore the indexation, but sadly only 311 people have signed. If everybody who read the blog signed it it would force the government to have to explain to Parliament why they did it. So please sign if you can.

Then there was the case of 237,000 pensioners – again a lot of them women – cheated out of £1.46 billion from their pensions – by miscalculations by the ministry raised by former pensions minister, Sir Steve Webb. The department is slowly trying reimburse them – some have decades of extra pension owed -but it will take at least to 2024 before it is completed.

Now Sir Steve has found another scandal which only affects women who should have received credits for looking after children from the late 70s. He has launched a campaign Mothers Missing Millions to try and get women’s pensions raised to make up the money – in one case a women was not credited with 14 years contributions.

And you have to add the scandal of the 118,000 disabled people put on a lower rather than benefit rate where the ministry has declined to compensate them – only giving money to the one person who complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Even the Ombudsman has been silenced by the ministry who refuse to budge on this issue -leaving him appealling to MPs for help.

Time for an inquiry into the running of the DWP

What I am saying here is if you put all these cases together it is quite clear there is a pattern of underpayment and maladministration where the department do their best to avoid doing anything about it. It is without doubt discriminatory against women and suggests that ministers don’t want to pay them.

It is time women pressed all MPs to take up these issues. There is a strong case for an inquiry into the running of the DWP – there are too many cases for this to be just a coincidence.

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My blog tops 300,000 hits in 2022 – a year of frustration for pension campaigners and whistleblowers

Happy New Year. Last year My WordPress blog reached 304,297 hits with 218,257 unique visitors – compared to 286,840 hits and 203,099 visitors the previous year.

This figures does not include hits on my Facebook and Linked In sites which means the numbers are actually much higher though more difficult to exactly measure. Nor does this include my articles on Whitehall and Westminster for Byline Times. Byline Times is worth subscribing to for all the other independent journos who contribute to it.

Thanks to everybody who chose to read my stories and special thanks to those who kindly donated to my site. Last year I raised some £5600 via WordPress plus another £1600 through Paypal before charges.

The two campaigns I run on this site – the demand for full restitution for the 3.6 million women who lost out when the pensions age was raised from 60 to 66 – and valiant whistleblowers fighting for justice in the NHS and at the nuclear facility in Sellafield – attracted the most interest.

The Department for Work and Pensions emerged as the most hated ministry by pensioners and benefit claimants.

DWP most hated ministry

The biggest hit on the site was not from my campaign for the #50swomen but from the blog exposing the millions of people who have been swindled by the DWP out of a Guaranteed Minimum Pension. Here I was helped out by a retired expert on the issue Christopher Thompson who has tirelessly pressed ministers and the Commons DWP committee to do something about it. This attracted 15,281 hits.

Four blogs on the 50swomen campaign attracted over 10,000 hits – the highest being my report of the WASPI meeting at the Labour Party Conference which attracted 12,405. My report on the proposed remedies for the women by the Parliamentary Ombudsman which I and many women see as a betrayal attracted 10,054 hits. An opportunity to download the summary of the changes attracted 4,400 people to do so – adding a little to more transparency given only a selected few were supposed to see it.

Dr Day case was followed across the world

On the the whistleblower front I decided to do a daily report on the Dr Chris Day case – the appalling story of a junior doctor who lost his training place because he tried to expose patient safety dangers at an intensive care unit at Woolwich Hospital where two patients had already died. This was really old fashioned journalism when people used to cover courts regularly – in this case an employment tribunal – making the proceedings publicly accountable. It paid off not only with a big following of the blog here but thousands of people followed it on Linked In including doctors from Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and Brazil. He lost the tribunal despite the health trust destroying 50,000 emails relating to its case that should have been examined by the tribunal. But the good news is that the British Medical Association is backing his appeal.

There is similar interest -including internationally – in the tribunal case of Alison McDermott who was commissioned by Sellafield to review its human resources policies and found appalling shortcomings and also in India and the UK in the fight by Dr Usha Prasad, the former cardiologist at the Epsom and St Helier University Trust, who was sacked after refusing to change a report on an ” avoidable death” there that should have been reported to the coroner. My thanks to two retired cardiologists, Dr David Ward and Jane Somerville for their help on these cases.

Whistleblower cases call into question the employment tribunal system

These cases have thrown up serious questions about the competence and bias of employment judges and called in question the entire running of the employment tribunal system and its failure to keep records of cases. I am now beginning to be inundated with dissatisfied people who feel they have been cheated by going to an employment tribunal.

This year has been a frustrating year for whistleblowers and for women seeking a just solution to maladministration and direct discrimination over the raising of the pension age. But there is no reason to stop reporting this – though I will be taking a long break at the beginning of this year only to come back reinvigorated.

One final point. A very small minority of people are trying to put up comments on this blog using false names from fake email addresses. I see some national newspapers are no longer going to put up comments on the web from people who don’t declare who they are. So from this year I will no longer carry comments from people who do this.

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Exclusive Fresh Update: Betrayal – Parliamentary Ombudsman dumps on 3.6 million 50s born women

Rob Behrens -Parliamentary Ombudsman

Leaked document now published says nearly all not to get one penny compensation – despite his finding of partial maladministration – and WASPI appears to have covered this up

For those who want to see the full document or the few doubters that this can be true – you can read the document here [ google docs] or see below.

Fresh Update: MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have taken up this story by writing to Rob Behrens asking for an explanation of the proposed remedy that has been sent to six complainants. Read the letter in full here.

The letter from Tory MP William Wragg, the chair, reads: ” We have received reports that women affected by the changes are expected to receive minimal, if any, financial compensation

“I would therefore be grateful if you could clarify:

  • whether any decisions around financial remedies have been taken or communicated
    to those
    affected;
  • whether there have been any changes in the expected timeline for the final report;
    and
  • whether there have been any changes in who will be eligible for compensation.”

In what must be the biggest betrayal of complainants since the Ombudsman was set up by Harold Wilson in 1967 Rob Behrens has put out proposals to deprive the vast majority of 1950s born women from any compensation for the maladministration suffered by being not personally informed about the rise in the pension age from 60 to 66.

The six people who complained will get £1000 each and another 600 who complained to the Ombudsman could get the money if the Department for Work and Pensions deign to pay them which on its present record seems unlikely. For the rest there is nothing.

This proposal is a far cry from the promise made by Angela Madden, the leading figure from Waspi, who told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in September that payments of £10,000 to £20,000 each were a possibility for women who had missed out. See here. She has continually urged people to rely on the Ombudsman to sort this out – though recently has suggested a direct approach to the DWP to get a fair settlement because of the numbers of women dying.

A big emphasis has been highlighted by Waspi on making sensible demands and not going for full restitution – now on the basis of direct discrimination- as pushed by Backto60 and now by former judge Jocelynne Scutt, in her report.

Well this is the provisional settlement Waspi has got and it has not been worth the wait. Confidential proposals, seen by these blog, reveal this betrayal. It reads:

The Ombudsman’s proposed remedy -guaranteed £1000 offer to six people

“Our provisional view about remedy is that DWP should:

• publicly acknowledge maladministration in its communication about changes to State Pension age resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act and maladministration in its complaint handling

• publicly apologise for the impact that maladministration has had on the sample complainants and others similarly affected

* pay each sample complainant £1000 compensation for the injustice they have suffered

• establish and fund a compensation scheme to provide equivalent compensation [ie £1000] to anyone else who has suffered the same injustice as the sample complaints because of maladministration in its communication about State Pension age and its complaint handling

• provide an adequate and proportionate financial remedy to anyone who can evidence they suffered financial loss because they lost opportunities to make different decisions due to maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age

• provide an adequate and proportionate financial remedy to anyone who can evidence they lost opportunities to add qualifying years to their National Insurance record because of DWP’s maladministration in not adequately using research and feedback about people’s understanding of the new State Pension to improve its service and performance.”

Now there are a barrel load of problems in this settlement. There also appears to be some level of deceit over recent pronouncements by the PHSO to Parliament and Waspi to the Daily Express and the Independent. First the proposed settlement. To get even this measly £1000 some 3.6 million 50s women have to both prove they didn’t get a letter and prove they lost opportunities to take different decision or lost out to pay in expensive sums to the DWP to build up their pension. Many of these women who were on the breadline would not have had the thousands of pounds of cash to do this.

Joanna Wallace destroyed all the complaining letters from 50swomen

Secondly very simply how do you prove you didn’t get a letter? The DWP has said it has no records and DWP’s so called Independent Case Examiner, Joanna Wallace, as I reported earlier -see here – has conveniently destroyed loads of letters she received complaining about this issue after being cleared of maladministration by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. It is almost as though there have been deliberate moves to make sure no evidence was available in advance of the Ombudsman’s decision.

I also found it extraordinary that the Ombudsman has put forward a remedy so quickly after being quizzed by MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee last month. At the time – see my blog here – Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by MPs about the 50swomen investigation and said it could take until March before the full investigation and remedy were published.

To give her the benefit of the doubt perhaps she was so taken aback by the questioning from MPs she may have speeded it up. More suspicious minds might suggest she daren’t tell them what the Ombudsman had in mind because it would create a furore. The only public announcement by the PHSO since then has been it has completed stage 2 of the investigation but still has no remedy in mind.

Angela Madden, chair of Waspi, showcasing her Jubilee Pin for going “the extra mile to improve the lives of others”. Pic credit:Waspi

The other extraordinary behaviour has been by WASPI. An article in the Daily Express on Friday quotes WASPI saying this.

Angela Madden, chair of WASPI, said: “These latest findings confirm the previous conclusion of the Ombudsman that maladministration took place at the Department for Work and Pensions. “But nearly 18 months after the Ombudsman’s first report, we are still waiting for his conclusions on a remedy.  This is becoming a lengthy examination of the blindingly obvious.”

Now by then people had been informed of the proposed remedy. Perhaps Angela Madden didn’t know. or perhaps she didn’t want anyone else to know because it is obviously too embarrassing for their campaign.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s press office said they were unable to comment was the investigation was on going.

But John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor and a member of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said: ” This offer is completely unacceptable. I shall be raising it immediately with the PACAC committee”. As Shadow Chancellor he had offered a £58 billion settlement over five years. I await a response from WASPI.

In the meantime Rob Behrens, the Ombudsman, according to his posts on Linked In has been literally glad handing with President Zelensky in Kiev at a special Europe wide human rights conference. Someone ought to ask him about the human rights of the 3.6 million 50s women who will now be cheated by him out of any decent settlement. The DWP must be cheering him on.

As a matter of the interest the pension age for women in Ukraine is 60 – six years below the current age in the UK. See this link.

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Parliamentary Ombudsman’s plea to MPs to summon the DWP and the Environment Agency for failing to compensate people

Amanda Amroliwala chief executive of the PHSO

Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has asked the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) to intervene on his behalf and summon the heads of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Environment Agency to appear before them to explain why they are ignoring his findings and refusing to compensate people.

The plea came during a hearing of the committee last week to examine the organisation’s progress and future plans to handle complaints. The committee also heard how the Ombudsman was hamstrung by the failure of the Cabinet Office to pass new legislation to give him greater powers and the latest progress in the 50swomen maladministration claim. More about this below. All these issues highlight weaknesses I have raised in previous blogs.

The DWP case involves 118,000 disabled people who suffered from years of benefit maladminstration . I wrote about this in August- see here. The complaint came from Ms U – via the London borough of Greenwich welfare rights office- who was put in the wrong lower category of the employment support allowance despite being in very poor physical and mental health with little or no savings The Ombudsman ordered the Department to pay her £7500 compensation and five years of arrears totalling £19,832.55 plus interest.

A National Audit Office investigation found that 118,000 people were in the same boat and should have been compensated alongside her following the Ombudsman’s ruling. But the DWP decided only to pay her and ignored everyone else. The pay out would have run to millions of pounds and the DWP decided it would ignore the Ombudsman because legally they can.

The second case involves one family but it is one of the most egregious cases I have heard in Whitehall. The case has been going on for 12 years and involves admitted maladministration by the Environment Agency over the issue of a water licence for a micro hydro project in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. The Earl family who renovated a tumbledown watermill to use for the scheme was supposed to receive substantial compensation decided by an independent assessor appointed by the Environment Agency. who bungled their case. The money owing could amount to £3m as interest has piled up and the EA has refused to follow through the Ombudsman’s finding for years.

John McDonnell MP

MPs also raised the issue of the Ombudsman’s lack of powers. John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor and a Labour member of the committee, has tabled a question to the Cabinet Office asking why they have not introduced legislation to do this. The issue is raised in an earlier blog here.

Mr McDonnell asked Robert Behrens:”Can you explain the practical implications of the Government’s lack of support for legislative reform? How does that hold you back from adhering to the Venice principles, which the Government have signed up to ?”

He told him: “Two of my counterparts have the power of own-initiative investigation. In cases like Windrush, the maternity scandal in hospitals or the issues with mental health, we could go out and look at an issue without it being complained about. We could resolve that issue before it went to a long-standing independent or public inquiry. The peer review panel said that other ombudsman schemes in Europe use that and have used it in Covid to good effect.”

He went on: “If you have 16 public service ombudsmen in the United Kingdom, it means that people do not know where to go. It means the profile of my office and other offices is lower than it would otherwise be. That is not satisfactory in terms of being the only organisation in the public service that provides redress free of charge to citizens. That is very important.”

He added that he saw no reason why a government could not introduce a bill to do all this straight after the next general election.

MPs Question chief executive on 50swomen pension investigation

Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by three MPs, Ronnie Cowan, SNP, John McDonnell and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, both Labour, on the maladministration complaints over the delay in paying 3.6 million 1950s born women.

On Stage 2 of the report, which has already been leaked on this website see here, she said: “We have not
finalised that stage of the report yet. We are in the process of receiving and analysing the very extensive comments that we have had from the Department and from the complainants who have brought the complaints to us”

RONNIE Cowan, SNP MP for Inverclyde

Under further questioning she added: “We are looking at how those will need to change the
provisional views that are not yet public but that some individuals have had sight of. We will do that as soon as possible.” She would not commit a date for this report and the proposed remedy will be published except ” hopefully” between January and March next year. She was also quizzed on the level of compensation. Ronnie Cowan pointed out it could be anything from nothing to £10,000 but if it was maladministration only the top level was much less than £10,000 .She would not be drawn on how much this is likely to be.

John McDonnell reflected the frustration among MPs about the long delay in the Ombudsman producing a final report. “You can understand the scale of interest and concern there is amongst Members of Parliament. You will have seen that from the early-day motions. There is not an MP without a constituent who has been affected. The concern that people have is because of the age of many of our constituents. Some of them have already passed away. Others may not be here to receive any form of redress, if we delay beyond the next quarter of next year.”

There is another elephant in the room that was not discussed. If the DWP is refusing to pay 118,000 benefit claimants their compensation, why should they pay any of the 3.6 million 50swomen a penny beyond the six test cases who complained?

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Updated Direct Discrimination: Former Judge Jocelynne Scutt’s report published on the 50swomen pension delay

Former judge Jocelynne Scutt today published her full report on the plight of 1950s women who have waited up to six years to get their delayed pension. As expected it provides copious arguments why the women have been cheated, why the 50swomen were the first group targeted and contains some heart rending cases. You can download the report here. It is a large file as the report runs to 155 pages including appendices.

Here is the entire speech by Jocelynne Scutt to MPs in Parliament this week. This explains the logic of her argument.

The full speech from Jocelynne Scutt to MPs

Some 3.8 million women suffered direct discrimination by the Tory government’s decision in 1995 to raise the pension age, of women to 65 and then 66, MPs and peers will be told at a briefing in Parliament today.

This is the main finding of a big report by Jocelynne Scutt, a former Australian judge who served on the Fiji bench and was Tasmania’s first Anti Discrimination Commissioner. She now teaches law at the University of Buckingham and is a member of both the Australian Labor Party and the British Labour Party and is a Labour councillor in Cambridge.

Her report followed a hearing by the CEDAWinLAW People’s Tribunal last July which specifically looked into the plight of 50sborn women where some of the women and Dr Elgun Safarov, vice chair of the UN Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls (CEDAW) from Geneva, gave evidence. The UN committee is currently challenging the UK government to explain its failure to write the convention into UK law some 36 years after Margaret Thatcher ratified it.

The ruling in the report to be published in due course is much tougher than the case put forward by two members of BackTo60 in the court hearings following the judicial review. Then lawyers argued that the women had suffered indirect discrimination as their opportunities to pay contributions into the National Insurance fund, among other issues, to qualify for a full pension were not equal with men.

Jocelynne Scutt argues that this was not indirect discrimination but direct discrimination of a specific group of women who had been singled out to wait for their pension while everyone else was unaffected. It has also to be taken into account that 9.8 million men over 60 who decided not to claim unemployment benefit were given free auto-credits which ensured that nearly all got a full pension for life. It was going to be offered to women until 2018 but that idea was swiftly scrapped.

Every one of these women – many who have worked since the age of 15 as well as bringing up a family- was promised by the government when they started work that they could retire at 60 and planned to do so. And given the Department for Work and Pensions told the courts that it was not obliged under the 1995 Act to tell them personally this had changed – this only came in when men were affected by a rise in their retirement age.

Jocelynne Scutt has already delivered the report to Rishi Sunak at Downing Street. She argues that 50s women were treated unfavourably from the start. The 1995 decision did not affect any women born in the 1940s, targeted the 1950s women while those born in 1960s and 1970s onwards had much longer to adjust. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report agrees there was partial maladministration in that 50s women were not properly informed. In fact hardly anyone was properly informed until it all changed with men and women facing a rise in their pension age to 66.

Full restitution must be honoured – Jocelynne Scutt

Jocelynne Scutt says “Government and Parliament have a responsibility to face up to and acknowledge the grave wrong done. There is no room for obfuscation or quibbling. Historical discrimination requires relief. There is a moral imperative to right this wrong. The law is on the side of the 1950s-born women. 1950sborn women alone are the group targeted. This is a debt of law and honour. Full restitution is the only proper legal, ethical and moral outcome. Full restitution must be honoured.

The briefing is in the House of Commons at 2.0pm today.

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Cheated Again! MPs blast Department for Work and Pensions for not acting fast enough to reimburse £1.46 billion to pensioners

The DWP is attacked today by MPs on the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee for not having a credible plan to reimburse hundred of thousands of pensioners who have been shortchanged billions of pounds in pension payments.

The scheme is the only programme where the DWP admits it has made gigantic mistakes by underpaying pensioners and is committed to return the money owed to them. It is obvious at the moment that ministers and civil servants have no intention of reimbursing people who have been denied a guaranteed minimum pension when they were contracted out by their employer.

Nor do they appear to be remotely interested in compensating the 1950s women who lost six years of their pensions despite it being clear that the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Robert Behrens, has found maladministration in not telling the women properly about it, let alone even considering whether women were unfairly discriminated by the decision. The fact that not a single minister has talked to anybody about 50swomen since 2016 speaks volumes.

What is clear from a report by the MPs ( which also tackles benefit fraud) is that they are distinctly unimpressed by the DWP’s handling of this despite assurances from Peter Schofield, the permanent secretary, at the department during a committee hearing earlier this year.

Peter Schofield Pic credit: gov.uk

The Department’s efforts to correct the systemic underpayment of State Pension are too slow to meaningfully put things right. The Department now estimates that 237,000 pensioners have been underpaid a total of £1.46 billion in their State Pension.
“Despite these underpayments going back as far as 1985, the Department’s overall exercise to correct this issue is delayed from the end of 2023 to the end of 2024. The Department cannot be certain that its plan to deliver the exercise on schedule is achievable, as it is dependent on assumptions around recruitment, retraining, and automation.

“We are not convinced that the Department has done enough to ensure its communications to potentially affected pensioners are sufficiently clear. We are concerned that this may leave many pensioners lacking reassurance that they will receive meaningful and timely redress.

We remain unconvinced about the DWP – MPs.

“The Department does not yet know the full extent of the underpayment relating to Home Responsibilities Protection, and it is dependent on HMRC to evaluate the impact of these underpayments on pensioners. The Department cannot be certain that it has identified all the underpayments implied by the results of its annual measurement exercise. Overall, we remain unconvinced that the Department’s control systems are adequate to detect further underpayments before they build up into major issues in future.”
Sounds familiar. Anyone trying to ring the department already knows what lousy communicators the ministry is- that is, if you can get through to them..

And it looks like there is worse to come. The report said:

“The NAO [National Audit Office] reported that the Department cannot rule out that there may be further groups of pensioners, as yet unidentified, that have been affected by a historic underpayment.
It concluded that this was in large part because the Department had not set out plans to revise its control processes for State Pension cases to ensure that underpayments are detected and recorded at the point of payment.”

Yet again through delays and failure to get a grip pensioners are being cheated of their rightful dues and many may die before they receive them. Is there no part of the DWP that can function correctly?

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Delivered to Downing Street: Jocelynne Scutt’s tribunal report on the horrors facing #50swomen who faced delayed pensions

Jocelynne Scutt, president of the Convention for Ending all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Tribunal, yesterday delivered her report on the plight of 50s born women to Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, at Downing Street.

The report, to be officially published at the end of this month, is the latest move to press for full restitution for the women who had to wait 6 years to get their pension. It is timely reminder to the government which is about implement big tax rises and spending cuts that this issue will not go away for the 3.6 million people who lost out.

Jocelynne Scutt, President of the CEDAW Tribunal; Janet Chapman, Ian Byrne’s Parliamentary Assistant, and Ian Byrne, Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, who tabled a Parliamentary motion call for full restitution, pictured outside Parliament

Jocelynne Scutt gave a speech outlining the main issues and Ian Byrne wholeheartedly backing the campaign. See it on a video here.

Ian Byrne’s Parliamentary motion now has 75 signatures from MPs. The latest MPs to sign include more Labour MPs such as Qureshi Yasmin, Bolton, South East; Karl Turner, Kingston-upon-Hull, East: Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central; and Khalid Mahmood, Birmingham, Perry Barr and Clive Betts, Sheffield South East.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse and MP for Bath is the first member of the party to sign.

The issue is very popular in Northern Ireland with all MPs in the Democratic Unionist Party signing plus a member from Social Democrat Labour Party and the Alliance. Eight MPs from Scottish National Party have signed and two from Alba Party. There are also a number of ex Labour MPs now Independents have signed, the latest being Dr Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and South Acton.

It is noticeable that not a single Conservative MP has signed the new motion though many signed the motion in the last Parliament calling for full restitution.

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Pension Justice stalemate: WASPI and Backto60 step up rival campaigns just as the new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt plans new spending cuts

Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor of the Exchequer

And a Parliamentary Petition is laid to change another pension injustice affecting millions

The chaotic and collapsing government of Liz Truss is facing rival demands to settle the long running dispute affecting 3.6 million 1950s born women demanding compensation for maladministration and inequality over the six year delay in paying their pension.

Ian Byrne, the Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, has tabled a motion supporting Backto60’s demand for full restitution of the lost money – up to £50,000 in some cases- payable through a special temporary Parliamentary measure – to avoid changing the 1995 Pensions Act which set the higher retirement age for women.

Ian Byrne MP

Some 35 MPs have backed him including the former Labour shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who got Labour to back a £58 billion compensation package in the 2019 election campaign; former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn and host of other Labour MPs, including Ian Lavery, Tony Lloyd, Mike Amesbury, Richard Burgon and Clive Lewis. It is also supported by Alison Thewlis, the SNP Treasury spokesperson and Chris Stephens, SNP Fair Work and Employment spokesman. Two members of the Democratic Unionist Party, Jim Shannon and Gregory Campbell, also backed the motion. The full list is here.

Chloe Smith, work and pensions secretary

The initiative from Waspi involves getting its members to send a template letter to their MP asking them to back their version of compensation for 50s women. For avoidance of any doubt here is the full text which would be sent to Chloe Smith, the new work and pensions secretary.

Chloe Smith MP

Secretary of State

Department for Work and Pensions

Caxton House

Tothill St

London, SW1H 9NA

XX October 2022

Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State!

I write in the hope that you may be able to ‘reset’ the government’s relationship with the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign, whom I met during the Summer Recess.

Parliamentary answers (see UIN14559) confirm that no Minister in your department has met the campaign since 2016, which is something I am hoping that you and colleagues will be prepared to put right.

As you will know, last year the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found that the Department was guilty of maladministration, in failing to communicate significant changes to the State Pension Age, which were legislated for in 1995.  Specifically, the PHSO has concluded “the opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost…DWP failed to take adequate account of the need for targeted and individually tailored information… Despite having identified there was more it could do, it failed to provide the public with as full information as possible.

While the PHSO is continuing to investigate the harm caused to women born in the 1950s, as a result of this maladministration, CEO Amanda Amroliwala has also made clear that the government need not wait for further reports before making an offer of compensation.  In a letter to our parliamentary colleague, Andrew Gwynne, she said, “We must now consider the impact of these failings on the women affected and what recommendations may be needed to remedy any associated injustice. We have suggested to the Department for Work and Pensions that they consider being proactive in this respect”.

Meanwhile, WASPI have recently commissioned research which establishes that, by the end of this year, 220,000 women will have died waiting for compensation since their campaign began in 2015.  Sadly, another woman dies every 14 minutes.

I have been struck during my conversations with the campaigners that they are therefore extremely pragmatic about achieving a resolution quickly.  They are not looking for a long fight with the government, preferring to accept a fair, fast one-off sum for those whose retirements have been devastated by mistakes made at DWP.  Specifically, they are not looking to receive ‘lost’ pension amounts, but rather to be compensated for the maladministration at DWP, which caused them to take decisions they might not otherwise have taken, had they been given proper notice of changes to the law.  Quite sensibly, they are suggesting higher levels of compensation for those given the shortest notice of the longest delay to receipt of their State Pension.

They have been through four stages of complaint at DWP and now face two further stages of the PHSO process.  All the while more of the women affected die waiting, so they are keen to see the proactivity suggested by the PHSO from your department.

Would you prepared to meet with me and with Angela Madden, the Chair of the campaign, together – both so that you can understand the (surprisingly reasonable and pragmatic) position of the campaign, and that they can hear directly from you?

While both they and I recognise that you could not make immediate commitments in any such meeting, I do believe it would be helpful to open a dialogue now rather than have the group getting more and more frustrated that government will not talk to them.  The PHSO’s ongoing investigation is not a reason to postpone discussion, since the substance of maladministration has already been confirmed.

At some point, government (of whichever political stripe) is going to be required by the Ombudsman to make an offer of compensation, so it makes sense to begin the conversation now rather than brooking further delay, during which time – sadly – more and more of the affected women will pass away.

WASPI want compensation for maladministration and nothing for restitution

The letter is a massive reduction on the demands made by the MPs. For a start they want NO rather than FULL restitution for the up to £50,000 lost by 3.6million pensioners. Instead they want an unspecified payment before the Ombudsman decides what level of compensation for maladministration. There is no mention of the £10,000 to £20,000 a head compensation promised by Angela Madden to the 50 people attending the Labour Party fringe meeting last month.

There also is a misconception that the Department for Work and Pensions is required by the Ombudsman to meet them after he has issued his report. This is not true the Ombudsman has no power to require anybody to follow his decisions – as has been shown ( see below) in another case where millions of pensioners have been cheated out of a Guaranteed Minimum Pension also promised in the 1990s.

Finally the letter speaking for the 3.6 million people say they are “reasonable and extremely pragmatic people” quite happy to accept a fast buck settlement of few quid to end this dispute. This is not reflected in the comments I receive on this site.. People are livid, angry, despairing of politicians and feel deliberately cheated by the Establishment of what they see rightly as their dues. They are fed up about being thought to be a soft touch just because they are older women. They are prepared to take on the government and refuse to vote for any politician determined to deprive them of their lost pensions.

New petition on Guaranteed Minimum Pensions

Meanwhile a Parliamentary petition has been tabled by Chris Thompson, a retired pensions expert, to restore indexation for a guaranteed minimum state pension for people outside the public sector.

“I want the Government to change the law to reinstate uprating of state pensions in respect of contracted out occupational pensions known as Guaranteed Minimum Pensions (GMP).

“I believe it is not fair that the DWP ceased to uprate state pensions in respect of certain pension entitlements when the new state pension was introduced. I believe this with done without adequate consultation or notice, and should be reversed. “Sign this petition

This followed a victory for two people after they complained of maladministration ( sounds familiar) by the DWP in not informing them of the change depriving them of indexation when the new pension came into force. The Ombudsman laid down what the DWP should to inform people of their rights, but the DWP has not followed this through properly and refused to engaged with anyone. Over a lifetime this could be worth thousands of pounds of lost pensions – and I urge 50swomen to sign this to put more pressure on the DWP. You might be entitled to extra compensation as well as your claim for your lost pensions.

Finally I don’t like to be the harbinger of bad news -but the total disaster of Liz Truss’s government – means we are now going to be faced with a further two years of austerity after she wrecked the British economy.

Sadly this will mean that the government will be extremely reluctant to compensate other people on top of subsidising people’s energy bills and introducing measures to balance the books. I see Angela Madden has managed to get a meeting with former Tory leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt, the current leader of the Commons, who appears to be involved in a plot to topple Truss with Rishi Sunak. The trouble is it is the DWP who are the ministry who will decide this – and they have just been asked by Jeremy Hunt to impose more cuts on top of long term savings to sack 91,000 civil servants across Whitehall. I can’t see them having any interest in settling this at the moment.

One bright spot will be a report by Australian judge Jocelynne Scutt is expected to pull together all the injustices in this case following the tribunal earlier this year. The report is imminent.

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That confidential Ombudsman’s report on 50swomen pensions summary in full: For the benefit of all WASPI members

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

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.

Provisional views

Reference: SPA (stage 2) Complained about:           Department for Work and Pensions                           Independent Case Examiner

The issues we are considering and our provisional views

  1. 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. 
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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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Labour Conference: WASPI promise £10,000 minimum compensation for 3.6 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 s 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

The meeting began with a statement from Angela Madden but it was difficult to hear her clearly at the back of the room because of the acoustics and early on the organisers asked her to speak up. My understanding at the beginning was that she was talking about six million women which would cover those born in the 1950s and 1960s.

But after another journalist who was reporting the meeting and some people from Waspi say compensation was only for the3.6 million people I have amended my earlier report. I have received no statement from her only some coverage from Waspi members who object to my coverage revealing the contents of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s second provisional report wh ich looks at the case for compensation for partial maladministration.

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 a 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 published first report backed only partial maladministration which would automatically reduce compensation and was never challenged by Waspi. She made no reference to the second unpublished 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. This does seem to suggest that the pre 2019 election £60 billion compensation package promised by John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor, is being quietly dropped.

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