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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Scandal of the Ministry of Justice’s £200 million plan to imprison more women while providing a tenth of the cash to keep them out of jail

Foston Hall women’s prison. Pic credit: BBC

As the UK faces public spending cuts the Ministry of Justice is embarking on a £200 million plan to expand the women prison population by building 500 new places for women.

The scheme has been condemned by charities from the Prison Reform Trust, the Howard League for Penal Reform to Women in Prison and was subject to a highly critical report from MPs on the Commons Justice Committee.

This weekend a report from Women in Prison provided a cost funded case to turn this spending plan on its head by funding women’s centres instead to keep women out of jail and save the NHS, local authorities and the police a shed load of public money in picking up the pieces after prison life.

If you don’t believe this you should read last year’s Chief Inspector of Prisons report on Foston Hall, near Uttoxeter, Derbyshire, the worst women’s prison in the country. housing around 272 women prisoners.

1750 cases of self harm in one year at Foston Hall prison

An unannounced visit found that in one year there were 1750 cases of self harm by the women inmates and a staggering 1000 calls to the Samaritans each month. Two women had killed themselves there since 2019. Other statistics revealed that 20 per cent of the women were released into the community with nowhere to live – adding to the homelessness problem. The prison couldn’t even get people to work there – it had a supposed full staff complement of 110 but only 62 were deployable at any one time. As a result there was a high level of violence and lot of women were segregated.

The report said: “The prison had no strategy to reduce self-harm or improve the care for those in crisis. Recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following their investigation into deaths in custody had still to be addressed and the relatively few women who accounted for most of the
incidents did not have meaningful care plans. The response to women in crisis was too reactive, uncaring and often punitive.”

Contrast this with a plan put forward by the new Women in Prison report. It follows one of the last acts of the Johnson government to allocate £24m – compared to £200m for new prison places – to develop women’s centres as an alternative to prison.

Women in Prison point out that just one centre “receiving £1m in a given year can support over 650 women and generate £2.75m in public sector savings, while providing a lifeline for vital services and significantly improving wellbeing for women and their children. The savings would go to local authorities (47%), the Ministry of Justice (17%), the NHS (15%), the Police (10%), the Department for Work and Pensions (9%) and HM Revenue and Customs (2%).”

Instead nearly half of Women’s Centres surveyed said they are concerned about their survival because the £24m is being parcelled out in short term funding spread across the country. Once the money runs out centres face closure.

Anawin Women’s Centre pic credit: Anawin

Joy Doal, Chief Executive of Anawim Women’s Centre in Birmingham said: “We are struggling. The needs of the women we work with are becoming more complex. We are witnessing the fallout from  Covid-19 – which is driving mental health problems – and an alarming number of women driven into poverty due to rising bills. On top of that our own costs are skyrocketing due to inflation and the rise in living costs. Now more than ever, we need sustainable, long-term funding to ensure we can continue meeting the ever growing needs of the women we work with.”

To me this seems just one more example of the lack of joined up thinking in Whitehall. The Women in Prison charity have done a great job not only in highlighting what is going wrong but in providing a fully costed solution that ought to be sent to the Treasury post haste. One example of a woman ending up in prison because they have mental health problems was covered on my blog earlier this year. See it here.

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Whistleblower doctors fury over Roddis Associates suitability to run medical ethics courses for the Medical Defence Union

Doctors involved in high profile whistleblower cases have put in complaints to the Medical Defence Union over a day long virtual course in medical ethics run by a clinical management company that makes tens of thousands of pounds from NHS trusts challenging doctors who raise patient safety issues.

Tomorrow the MDU host a course run by Dr Mike Roddis of MJ Roddis Associates and Claire McLaughlan, who is also occasionally employed by M J Roddis, on medical ethics. I have already published a profile of Claire McLaughlan here.

Details of the course are here and the MDU is charging £249 a head (£149 for members) and it is already sold out.

The dispute over both Dr Mike Roddis and Claire McLaughlan involvement in the medical ethics issue comes from doctors who have been at the receiving end of reports written by both of them which are used by NHS health trusts to discredit whistleblowers at employment tribunal hearings. The work they do for trusts – in two recent cases – involve helping the trust to either downplay or dismiss the deaths of people in NHS hospitals.

This has led to highly critical letters going into the MDU from junior doctors and consultants including the Justice for Doctors organisation.

Dr Chris Day

One of the complainants is Dr Chris Day – currently awaiting the result of a tribunal covered by this blog into patient safety concerns at Woolwich Hospital, where two patients died in its intensive care unit because the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust ignored national staffing guidelines for intensive care units.

Dr Mike Roddis and Claire McLaughlan produced a report for the trust entirely ignoring this.

Dr Day says that he is shocked that the MDU is employing two investigators implicated in the cover up of his whistleblowing complaint to lecture on medical ethics. Their report was heavily criticised by Dr Megan Smith, a consultant anaesthetist and witness at Dr Day’s employment tribunal hearing in June.

Her statement is here and there is a report on my blog here. She told the tribunal:

“You would not find an anaesthetist or ICU doctor in the country who would accept those ratios. There was a clear and present danger to patient safety – no question about that.”

Dr Usha Prasad

Dr Usha Prasad, a former consultant cardiologist at Epsom and St Helier University NHS Trust, has written in similar terms to the MDU.

She wrote; “Claire Mclaughlan was the Chair of the internal appeal panel, hired by Epsom & St Helier Hosptial and her involvement including one sided conclusion was greatly damaging to my career…

“I am shocked to find that the MDU are using the very same investigator implicated in the cover up of whistleblowing cases. The MDU is using them to present a seminar on medical ethics of all topics which is very worrying. “

Her case, among other matters, involved the ” avoidable death” “of a cardiology patient at the hospital which was not reported to the coroner.

David Ward and Jane Somerville, two distinguished retired consultants have written to the MDU about both cases.

“We are retired physicians supporting NHS whistleblowers. We are aware of the MDU’s invitation to Roddis Associates and Claire McLaughlan to participate in a meeting on the subject of Medical Ethics. We are alarmed and dismayed to say the least.”

” Ms Claire McLaughlan was hired by St Helier Hospital Trust to undertake investigations and chair a Maintaining High Professional Standards (MHPS) hearing for Dr Usha Prasad. The outcome, published in June 2020, recommended her dismissal from the NHS Hospital where she had been working as a consultant cardiologist for over a decade (and with numerous plaudits from patients and administrators). 

“Some spurious and non-legal reasons were included in Ms McLaughlan’s written judgement recommending dismissal (these are the subject of an 3 inquiries which we have referred to the to the Ministry of Justice, the Tribunals President Barry Clarke and to the National Medical Director, Sir Stephen Powis). Given what we know about the conduct of these companies who claim to “help” doctors, we are extremely concerned about their ability to present meaningful, honest and understandable concepts in Medical Ethics.”

Justice for Doctors complains to MDU

The organisation Justice for Doctors has also complained to the MDU. A letter from doctors Salam-al- Sam and Azhar Ansari said:

“We learned to our disbelief that the MDU has invited Claire McLaughlan to talk about the subject of medical ethics at a shortly coming meeting.

“We write to express our serious concerns supported by more than 100 members of a group of doctors and other professionals known as Justice for Doctors. Many members were victims of those who made a fortune from NHS money by destroying the livelihood and reputation of intelligent, hardworking, and committed doctors simply because they did not remain silent when witnessing bad practices, bullying, fraud, and similar despicable acts on the NHS premises. Roddis Associates and Claire McLaughlan were hired for a fee originating from taxpayers which is supposed to be used for patient care to complete the acts of abusers of power in our NHS.  We and members of Justice for Doctors urge you to reconsider your plan and ask you not to encourage such individuals to spoil the reputation of your good offices.”

The MDU did not wish to comment on the letters.

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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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Judge’s extraordinary injunction against HS2 protestors banning nearly one million people from trespassing anywhere on 170 mile route

HS2 Protest : pic credit: Construction News

The day after the official mourning period of the Queen ended Mr Justice Julian Knowles issued a judgement that made British legal history for its scope and scale of curbing future protests in England.

His ruling was an astounding victory for the HS2 Ltd – builders of the £98 billion high speed rail line – and Grant Shapps, the former transport secretary recently sacked by Liz Truss, the new PM.

They had sought an injunction to stop campaigners against the route from disrupting activity – such as building tunnels near London Euston and Staffordshire or trying to stop destruction of the countryside – such as in Wendover, Buckinghamshire- by injuncting all the people involved.

But Mr Justice Julian Knowles gave them more than they could have dreamed of – by injuncting any protest activity along the whole route from London to Crewe- and extending it to categories of unknown people as well as the 59 people named in the injunction bringing in hundreds of thousands of other people who support the protestors.

He ruled that “there has been significant violence, criminality and sometimes risk to the life of the activists, HS2 staff and contractors”, adding that “much of the direct action seems to have been less about expressing the activists’ views about the HS2 Scheme, and more about trying to cause as much nuisance as possible, with the overall aim of delaying, stopping or cancelling it via, in effect, a war of attrition”.

Massive legal precedent set by judge

The legal precedent the judge has allowed could open the doors to other national bodies – such as EDF who run state owned nuclear power plants – or Sellafield to seek such wide ranging injunctions against nuclear protestors – or new fracking companies extending their local injunctions to cover the whole of the country. Or the Just Stop Oil protestors – who have dug tunnels at oil terminals – could find them subject to a national ban.

Parliamentary sovereignty invoked

The judge’s reasoning was simple. He was not taking sides on whether he approved or rejected the construction of HS2. Instead he said the scheme had been approved and debated by Parliament and to protest against it by causing criminal damage was effectively in breach of Parliamentary sovereignty. He denied that his decision would have a chilling effect on protests because people could protest peacefully without having to trespass on the site or block construction entrances.

He bought the arguments of HS2 that these had already cost them £120m and could cost £200m and provided work for 27,000 people. He also accepted that HS2 could not afford to employ security staff or ask the police to patrol the entire route. He saw no point on HS2 issuing damages claims against the named individuals because they had no money.

He defended the huge scale of his injunction by saying: “I have anxiously considered the geographical extent of the injunction along the whole of the HS2 route, and whether it should be more limited.

“I have concluded, however, given the plain evidence of the protesters’ intentions to continue to protest and disrupt without limit – ‘let’s keep fucking up HS2’s day and causing as much disruption and cost as possible. Coming to land near you’ – such an extensive injunction is appropriate.”

Warning to over zealous security staff

He did however issue a warning to overzealous security staff injuring protestors citing the case of one person who knelt on a protestor’s neck – similar to the case of George Floyd who died in the US when a policeman knelt on his neck and sparked the Black Lives Matters protests. Presumably he didn’t want a Protestors Lives Matters campaign in the UK.

What is more interesting is the service of the injunction – which could land people in prison if they disobey it.

For the 59 people named he ruled: “Service of this Order on Named Defendants may be effected by personal service where practicable and/or posting a copy of this Order through the letterbox of each Named Defendant (or leaving in a separate mailbox), with a notice drawing the recipient’s attention to the fact the package contains a court order. If the premises do not have a letterbox, or mailbox, a package containing this Order may be affixed to or left at the front door or other prominent feature marked with a notice drawing the recipient’s attention to the fact that the package contains a court order and should be read urgently.”

But for the unnamed people the judge ruled that Facebook and Twitter had made large number of people know about the injunction. The protestors’ fundraising account had 265,268 followers.

Grant Shapps at the HS2 Old Oak Common construction site Pic credit: HS2 Ltd

“A non-exhaustive review of Facebook shows that information about the injunction and/or the link to a fundraiser has been posted and shared extensively across pages with thousands of followers and public groups with thousands of followers. Membership of the groups on Facebook to which the information has been shared amounts to 564,028.”

So there was no need for HS2 to individually inform these people.

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “HS2 Ltd welcomes this judgment and its approval of the route-wide injunction. As Justice Knowles makes clear, this injunction will not, and is not intended to, stop legitimate protest. Instead, we hope the injunction will prevent the violence, intimidation and criminal damage these protests have frequently caused, harming the HS2 project and those working on it, and costing the UK taxpayer millions of pounds.”

But it looks as though protestors may challenge this judgement

The Guardian reported :” Lawyers representing one of the environmental activists. Nicola Hall of Robert Lizar solicitors, representing the activist James Knaggs, said: “This is a disappointing outcome. This injunction represents a concerning extension of the powers of a state-owned limited company to control and police large swathes of land across England. There is a concern that it constitutes a wide-ranging restriction on protests opposed to HS2 and is of extremely large geographical scope. It applies to very large areas of land, much of which is unfenced and unmarked.”

I can see this issue developing now Liz Truss is committed to creating growth and allowing free market policies at the expense of the environment, human rights and equal justice for all.

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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.

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A whistleblower consultant’s victory that exposes scandals at the Care Quality Commission and a hospital trust

Whistleblower Dr Shyam Kumar; Pic Credit: BBC

The victory by whistleblower Dr Shyam Kumar, an orthopaedic surgeon, against his unfair dismissal as an part time inspector for the Care Quality Commission is just the tip of an iceberg scandal at both the CQC and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

His victory – I am glad to say reported by the BBC, the Guardian and the medical press- was only possible by his persistence in the face of obstruction by the body that is supposed to hold up standards of medical care to protect patients and the collusion of a trust to protect its own reputation.

He told the BBC: “”The whole energy of a few individuals in the CQC was spent on gunning me down, rather than focusing on improvement to patient safety and exerting the regulatory duties,”

“I was perceived as a troublemaker within the CQC, or as a thorn in their side. That’s what I believe. And they just ignored it. And finally, people got involved.” 

The ruling at Manchester Employment Tribunal by Employment judge Mark Butler said he had received detriment for speaking out and awarded him £23,000 for injury to this feelings. Dr Kumar had not sought any other compensation.

The judge said:” There is evidence throughout this case….that the decision to disengage the claimant in this case (and the placing him on hold) has had a serious impact on the claimant’s reputation causing him injury to feelings. There were suggestions of misconduct by the claimant … where no evidence of this existed, and vague assertions of a breach of undefined values of the respondent … used in an attempt to justify the decisions made in this case, after the event” Instead the judge described Mr Kumar as a man with an untarnished reputation and expertise.

Dr X left a hip replacement patient never able to use her limbs

The detail of the concerns Dr Kumar found are deeply disturbing for patients. One involved Dr X whose two hip replacements on an elderly lady which overlooked the dislocation of her pelvis and she had to come back to accident and emergency unable to walk and his colleagues thought she would never be able to use her limbs again. When he raised this with the CQC and said a back review of Dr X’s cases should take place he was told the trust did not want to do this for reputational reasons.

When the Royal College of Surgeons did their own review much later into Dr X they found 26 out of 46 operations were matters of concern.

The judgement said:

a. some surgeries undertaken by Dr X were not completed to an acceptable
standard
b. some of the surgery and quality of care provided by Dr X was unacceptable.
c. some clinical decision making to undertake surgery by Dr X was
inappropriate.
d. in some cases there was either no or a lack of evidence of a “Duty of
Candour”

Dr Kumar was thanked by the associate medical director of the trust , Mr Damian Riley in 2021 for his work.

But at the time of the CQC inspection Dr Kumar faced a barrage of criticism from CQC officials, was effectively suspended from his job, and subject to racist attacks including being accused of being ” a traitor to his community ” for raising issues about Dr X’s competence by another trust doctor, Dr Sinha.

At a CQC focus meeting Dr Kumar was even falsely accused of deliberately creating NHS waiting lists so people would have to go privately – making extra money for doctors.

The CQC’s response was to side more with the trust than the whistleblower. This led Dr Kumar to write to the Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards. complaining that “patient safety is being
significantly compromised by the behaviour of some CQC staff.” He also complained he had been bullied and obstructed by CQC officials, his professional independence had been undermined and his whistleblowing concerns ignored.

The court upheld his protective disclosures. The judge also took a strong line in allowing the press access to all the documents in the case and also restricted an attempt by the CQC lawyers to restrict reporting of the Royal College of Surgeons report on the grounds that families had to be told first. The judge granted a very short restricted reporting period and was never challenged again.

The CQC in a statement said: “We accept the tribunal findings and have learnt from this case. We have already improved many of our processes and will continue to review these based on the findings to ensure we make any further necessary changes.”

Much wider issues than just this case

But there seems to me a much wider issue here about the behaviour of this particular trust and the role of regulation. This is not the first time this trust has been found wanting. There is the case of Peter Duffy, a consultant surgeon, working for the Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust. Faced with failures at the trust in the emergencies department he expressed concern for two patients who subsequently died from kidney sepsis.

One would have expected the Trust to have remedied the situation. Instead they turned on him rather than admit any failings. As he told Matthew Syed on Dispatches: ” I was on the receiving end of allegations of bullying, abuse and racism. And so what I hoped would be an attempt to raise standards became an investigation of myself”.

He was eventually proved right after an investigation disclosed multiple problems but not until after a five year toxic battle and now practices in the Isle of Man.

Inquiry chair Dr Bill Kirkup Pic credit: gov.uk

There is also the 2015 inquiry report by Dr Bill Kirkup into Furness Hospital, run by the trust over the deaths of babies and appalling maternity care.

As he says in his introduction: “The result was avoidable harm to mothers and babies, including tragic and unnecessary deaths. What followed was a pattern of failure to recognise the nature and severity of the problem, with, in some cases, denial that any problem existed, and a series of missed opportunities to intervene that involved almost every level of the NHS.”

There is a disturbing pattern that repeats itself. Whistleblowers, whether doctors or families, raise serious life and death issues, are ignored, denied justice, bullied and attacked, using the power of the state to buy expensive lawyers to try and crush them -only for them to be proved right in the end. With the Dr Chris Day case due to report this month following an extraordinary employment tribunal hearing where evidence was destroyed, it remains to see whether this pattern can start to be broken .

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Tragic tale of a mentally disturbed woman now facing jail for misusing and over using the NHS

Judge Rebecca Brown’s wig on display at Milton Keynes Museum

A very poignant hearing for contempt by a mentally disturbed woman was held at Milton Keynes County Court last week presided over by Her Honour Judge Rebecca Brown.

Gillian Marriott was facing a committal hearing brought by Thames Valley Police for breaching a court order made two years ago which banned her from contacting the emergency services or attending Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury except in a genuine medical emergency. She is now facing two six month prison sentences and the possibility of a much longer prison sentence if she breaches the order for the next two years. She had already been remanded in custody before the hearing.

The judge took the decision in her absence and without any statement by her in her defence but she was represented by a lawyer.

I am highlighting this story because it neatly encapsulates in one episode what is going wrong with mental health treatment, what is happening to a pressurised NHS in the current crisis and the desperation of public authorities to deal with disturbed people by deciding that incarceration in a prison is the only solution. I don’t know the woman concerned but her situation is very well summed up by the judge in her ruling.

114 calls to 999 and 217 calls to the 111 services

Thames Valley Police who brought the case say she “has made 114, 999 calls and 217, 111 calls reporting various medical episodes. These
have all been triaged and checked causing demand on the service unnecessarily” and had attended ” Stoke Mandeville Hospital on occasions which were not for genuine medical need. It is alleged that the defendant attended Stoke Mandeville Hospital on the 23rd of March 2022 claiming an overdose but all her vitals we checked and found to be normal.”

Stoke Mandeville Hospital Pic credit: BBC

The court were told she turned up at Stoke Mandeville claiming to have taken an overdose on “7th of April 2022 , 11th of April 2022 , 13th of April 2022 , 15th of April 2022 , 21st of April 2022 , 26th of April 2022 , 22nd of May 2022 and 3rd of June 2022.”

She also turned up at the accident and emergency department claiming she had taken an overdose on the 15th , 19th , 21st 27th , 28th and 29th of June 2022 and the 18th of July 2022.

She admitted turning up but claimed she had genuinely thought she was ill and needed treatment

Her psychiatrist, Dr Srikanth Nimmagaddam said in a statement to the court that she had ” a history of being brought up in an overprotective environment in the context of the death of her brother. She also feels that she suffered from emotional abuse, as her parents regularly adversely compared her with her deceased brother. She gives a history of problems at school and being sent to a special school. She gives a history of being severely bullied and discriminated at school, as she went to a special school. She gives a history that at the age of 11, she was raped by a person, who later blackmailed to harm her father. She had to withdraw the case and that resulted in being accused by the police of wasting their time. All this seems to have been extremely traumatic for her given her young age. She did some farm jobs
until the age of 25, when she was married. One of her daughters was taken into care.”

He said “I believe there is clear evidence to suggest that she has a personality disorder – an emotionally unstable personality disorder of borderline type. The features of her personality disorder include impulsivity, including acting impulsively without considering the consequences; severe mood swings; chronic feelings of emptiness; uncertainty about her aims, objectives and goals in life; chronic low self-esteem; difficulties in sustaining relationships with a constant fear of rejection and abandonment; maladaptive coping mechanisms in the form of numerous acts of deliberate self-harm and of substance abuse.”

He ruled she was fit to plead and recommended a treatment programme that would not require a hospital admission but would require residential accommodation.

Some of the care plan unavailable because of resources

But Leanne Manning, Community Psychiatric Nurse, told the court: ” Some of the suggested aspects of the care plan are not available in terms of resources such as a residential placement. Ms. Manning thought supported accommodation would assist Ms. Marriott because it she may feel more supported and less isolated.
Ms. Manning informed the court that Ms. Marriott could attend a number of courses at the Whiteleaf centre such as mindfulness classes, managing mood classes and managing and understanding your diagnosis classes. Ms. Manning also told the court that instead of telephoning 999 or 111, Ms. Marriott should first try to consider whether she really needs medical assistance by going through a checklist that she has. She can then telephone the Whiteleaf centre to speak to Ms. Manning or another worker or telephone a “social prescriber” who is based at the GP.”

The police’s lawyer took a hard line against her. Mr Garnett said: “the breaches were a deliberate flouting of the order and the breaches were serious and egregious.”

He argued that there was a high degree of culpability. No real mitigation has been put before the court because there is no evidence from Ms. Marriott. The evidence is that Ms. Marriott has refused to engage with any treatment plan which would
assist her in her impulse control which would stop this conduct.”

Ms Marriott’s Lawyer, Mr Killen, said she would agree to go on the course but not move into residential accommodation.

He said” she values her independence too much and has lived in her current accommodation for a long time.”

The Judge said she had considerable sympathy and compassion for Ms Marriott but ruled that her actions amounted to a criminal standard that Ms. Marriott knew that she was making unnecessary calls and as such continued to add unnecessary burdens to the NHS whether it be A and E, ambulance drivers and other medical staff. But she said she had not done it out of malice more because of her vulnerability.

People may die because ambulances are being diverted to Ms Marriott – judge

There is immense pressure on the NHS and emergency services and people may die because an ambulance is not available because it
has been diverted to Ms. Marriott. I am satisfied that Ms. Marriott understands the terms of the injunction and knows that the number of callouts is unacceptable.”

Her judgement concluded: “The court therefore orders that Ms. Marriott serves a term of six months for the 999 and 111 calls and a further sentence of 6 months for the visits to Stoke Mandeville, each sentence to run concurrently and be suspended for two years until 22.8.2024. This court specifically warned Ms. Marriott that if she appears back before this court, has made no sustained attempt at engaging with work to address her behaviour and has carried on breaching the order, she is likely to receive a significant custodial sentence as well as serve the activated suspended sentence.”

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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.

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