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

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

Rob Behrens Parliamentary Ombudsman Pic credit PHSO

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

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

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

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

It reads:” The evidence we have seen so far suggests timely and accurate information was available about the change in eligibility criteria for a State Pension, including how someone’s National Insurance record links to how much State Pension they can claim once they reach State Pension age.  Research showed the majority of people knew about the changes

Everybody knew about the pensions changes says report

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

Research also showed that too many people did not understand their own situations and how State Pension reform affected them.  The gap between awareness and understanding was highlighted by the Work and Pensions Committee and the National Audit Office. DWP does not appear to have used research and feedback to improve its service and performance.  In this respect, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good administration.  We think that was maladministration. However, we do not think this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.

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

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

Maladministration did not cause financial consequences

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

We also do not think maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age more likely than not led to all the financial, health, domestic and emotional consequences complainants claim. Complainants told us they made choices they would not have made if they had known their State Pension age had changed, and described the financial, family and health consequences those choices have had. However, some of their choices had already been made by the
time DWP should have written to them about changes resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act.

We do not think women lost opportunities to make different decisions, if those decisions had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them.

Instead it sticks to the argument that a 28 month delay in writing to women from December 2006 to April 2009 left ” some women are left not knowing whether they could have been in a different financial position, and whether they could have avoided the health and emotional consequences they claim.  We think that not knowing is an injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.

“We also think the anger and outrage complainants feel about not having as much notice of their State Pension age as they should have, could have been avoided if DWP had written to them when it should have.  Their sense of anger and outrage is a further injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.”

Changes just caused worry and confusion for some

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

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

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

“We think ICE should have said that it could not determine whether or not DWP had written to individual complainants who said they had never received a letter about their State Pension age, instead of telling them it was more likely than not they had been sent a letter.  But even if ICE had appropriately balanced the evidence in this way, we do not think the shortcoming in its handling of this issue was significant enough to be a failure to ‘get it right’”

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

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

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

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

Ombudsman report pulls the rug under the Waspi campaign

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

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

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

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

Giving evidence to CEDAW in LAW tribunal

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

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

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

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

Failure to remedy

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

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

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Lord Reed: The Supreme Court President backing the government against the people

Lord Reed of Allermuir, President of the Supreme Court. Pic credit: judiciary.com

An influential all party report by peers and MPs published last week (see my report in Byline Times) found nine recent judgements by the Supreme Court were favouring the government over the individual.

The change appears to have taken place after Lord Robert Reed became President in 2020 replacing Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond. It also follows a change in the composition of the court which is now almost exclusively male with just one token female judge out of 10.

The judgements of Lord Reed are hostile to women’s and children’s rights

I have since investigated further and found other cases where Lord Reed’s judgement have struck down opponents to Boris Johnson’s government particularly if they involve campaigning groups and they affect the welfare of women and children.

External view of the Supreme Court Pic Credit: Supreme Court

In one judgement he stated: “challenges to legislation on the ground of discrimination have become
increasingly common in the United Kingdom. They are usually brought by campaigning organisations which lobbied unsuccessfully against the measure when it was being considered in Parliament, and then act as solicitors for persons affected by the legislation, or otherwise support legal challenges brought in their names, as a means of continuing their campaign.”

This as the report points out ” reflect the executive talking point that litigation is used by “activist lawyers” to “conduct politics by other means”. Such a comment could easily have been made by Priti Patel, the home secretary.

BackTo60 outside the High Court in better times

Now this view may well explain a decision not mentioned in the report concerning the fate of a judicial review brought by the BackTo60 organisation on March 30 2021. This is the case readers of this blog will be familiar (Delve and another v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)- involving a long standing campaign to gain full restitution for 3.8 women born in the 1950s who faced up to six years delay in getting their pensions. Since this ruling the Parliamentary Ombudsman has found partial maladministration in the arrangements for implementing this policy.

Lord Reed and two other male judges decided to refuse to hear the case at the Supreme Court saying the delay in bringing the proceedings was unarguable.

Now this is strange given that the Hon Ms Justice Lang – had granted the case for a judicial review on all grounds -and lawyers had been allowed to argue their case at the High Court and the Court of Appeal even though they lost. The only people who were really angry about the decision were government ministers at the DWP.

Michael Mansfield, QC ” activist lawyer”

Michael Mansfield QC who argued the case for Backto60 said the Supreme Court’s was a “paper thin refusal”.

In my opinion the real reason may well have been that Lord Reed loathed campaigning groups like BackTo60 and hated well known ” activist lawyers” like Michael Mansfield. Also his decision would not affect a single man -only elderly women would suffer.

The second case which is in the report concerned another case brought by women and children about the government’s two child limit on tax credits and benefits for children. Again it involved the DWP. The claimants had used the UK’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to argue discrimination. Lord Reed ruled in July 2021 that this was ” out of order” and the UN convention could not be used in arguments because the UK Parliament had not passed specific legislation to implement the convention. This was precisely the opposite of what he argued in 2015.

Lord Reed backed government savings over helping children

But worse than that his judgement gave away his hostility to the plight of women and children.

 “The Court concludes that the two child limit has an objective and reasonable justification, notwithstanding its greater impact on women. The measure pursues a legitimate aim: to protect the economic wellbeing of the country by achieving savings in public expenditure and thus contributing to reducing the fiscal deficit. It was inevitable that, if that aim was to be achieved, there would be a disproportionate impact on women, since women are disproportionately represented among parents responsible for bringing up children  Parliament decided that the disproportionate impact of the two child limit on women was outweighed by the importance of achieving its aims. There is no basis on which the Court could properly take a different view.”

The third case, not mentioned in the report, involves the Scottish government’s attempt to introduce legislation to implement in full the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This alarmed Boris Johnson who did not want the Scottish Government implementing a convention that the UK had ratified which he felt should be done, if at all, by the Westminster Parliament.

I wrote about this here. The Supreme Court sided in October 2021 with the UK government blocking the Scottish Government doing this which also meant that other planned legislation implementing UN conventions on discrimination against women (CEDAW), ethnic minorities and the disabled would be stalled.

Lord Reed’s decision tore up part of the SNP manifesto

This decision led by Lord Reed again limited rights for women and children but also tore up the Scottish National Party manifesto pledge to introduce legislation. Ironically given all the fuss over judges being accused by the Daily Mail of being ” enemies of the people”, it makes Lord Reed, a Scottish judge who would know all about Scottish politics, an enemy of the Scottish voter who had elected the SNP government and expected them to fulfill their promises.

My conclusion is both Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, the Lord Chancellor, literally know they have a friend at court, the highest court in the land. They know they can introduce what restrictive legislation they want, and provided it is passed by Parliament, the most powerful judge in the land’s loathing of campaigning groups, will help them get their way. And women who only have a marginal role in the Supreme Court, better not expect any help either from a man who appears to have a bit of a misogynistic streak when it comes to backing their corner.

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MPs challenge Opperman to rewrite guidance for people who lost thousands of pounds in additional pensions

MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has written to Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, asking him to rewrite the fact sheet on the Gov.uk website so people can properly claim compensation for losing additional pensions worth up to thousands of pounds after the new state pension was introduced in 2016.

Guy Opperman, pensions minister. Pic Credit: Twitter

The action from the committee comes after members of the public complained to MPs that it was virtually impossible to find the advice given in the fact sheet or claim. Not a single person has succeeded in a claim against the Department for Work and Pensions yet possibly 11 million people are entitled to it.

The people affected are a large but distinct group. They were  people who were contracted out of SERPS by their employer but were told they would receive an index linked guaranteed minimum pension. This arrangement was scrapped when the new state pension was introduced in 2016 for anyone in the private sector – but remains for public sector workers.

The money they have lost is anything from a few pounds a week to tens of thousands of pounds over the lifetime of their pension. This decision was never debated in Parliament or included in the Pensions White Paper. Just as with the 50swomen and divorcees, women are the most affected.

Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, decided that there was maladministration by the DWP and two complainants got £1250 between them. He recommended that the government publish guidance on how to claim. But ministers ignored his advice and he never bothered to hold the ministry to account for its failure.

Peter Schofield, permanent secretary at the DWP

In March Peter Schofield, DWP permanent secretary on £190,000 a year, wrote to MPs on the committee, saying he had no intention of changing it. You can read the blog on this here.

Now Stephen Timms, the Labour chair of the committee, has written a strongly worded letter to Guy Opperman, asking for it to be rewritten. The full text is here.

Stephen Timms MP chair of the committee

The letter reveals anger among members of the public.

The letter said:” One person pointed out that the factsheet has been placed on Gov.UK in the section on ‘public service pensions’, when it is not in fact relevant to members of such schemes as they have full inflation protection.

“Another told us that they only became aware of it after looking through the correspondence between the Committee and DWP on the Committee’s website. They said “how anyone affected was expected to know it was there I will never know. There was no press release or other publicity to encourage the large numbers of people affected to look at the gov.uk site factsheet.
” Yet another person pointed out that some pension schemes were unaware of the factsheet.

One referred on its website to GMP indexation being partly delivered through ‘increases each year added to your State Pension’, without distinguishing between people who reach State Pension age before and after 6 April 2016.”

Only 19 people used the on-page search function

The analytic review of the factsheet sent to the Committee on 2 March 2022 said, the factsheet had had 6,922 ‘unique page views’, which seems low number given that the Department estimated that 50,000 people would be worse off in 2017-18 alone.13 Only 19 people had used the on-page search function, which is ‘very low’.

The MPs say: “The Committee would be grateful for an explanation of the circumstances in which an individual in the target group for the factsheet may be eligible for compensation and what steps should they take to get it. This should be included in a revised version of the factsheet.”

The letter concludes; ” The Committee is concerned that, now six years on from the NAO report, it is still the case that some people with GMPs negatively affected by the new State Pension reforms “have not been able to find the information they need.” In light of this, will the Department revisit its decision not to review the factsheet and commit to improving its content so that it better meets the needs of those affected and promoting it better? This Committee would be grateful for sight of a suitably revised version of this factsheet before it is published.
“I would be grateful for a response by 8 June.”

The DWP’s official position is “We encourage anyone who is concerned to read the online factsheet and contact us if they think they have been affected.

“The publication of the factsheet is the final step in the Department meeting the Ombudsman’s recommendations on this issue.”

But MPs are not satisfied and nor should anyone else. So Mr Opperman’s response will be closely watched. To repeat again if this is the way the ministry treats this group of people how are the 3.8 million 50s women who are hanging on for a compensation package from Robert Behrens are going to be vastly disappointed. Note it is SIX years since he recommended compensation for this group and not a single person has got a penny. At this rate the 50s women could be well into their 70s before they get any money or in their graves by then.

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Revealed: A new generation of women face pension inequality

Pic credit: Siemens pension scheme

Just before the Parliamentary recess the House of Commons library produced a new report on pension inequality showing how a new generation of women will lose out again to men unless action is taken now.

The report- The Pension Gender Gap – makes stark reading for millions of women now in work. The focus in this report is on the hurdles facing women to get an equal pension with men.

The main hurdle is the private pension or second pension women receive to top up their state pension. It quotes a Women’s Budget Group pre-Budget Briefing which says that: ‘Private pension schemes, promoted and subsidised by UK governments, are the main reason for the gender gap in pensions, placing women at a disadvantage due to their domestic roles and lower pay’.

The pay gap – still at 7.9 per cent – between men and women is basically discriminating against women getting the same pension as men. When the Conservative government set up the auto-enrollment scheme for a workplace pension in 2012- funded by employers and employee contributions – they excluded anyone not earning enough to pay national insurance.

While it increased the chances of women getting a private pension ( from 40 per cent in 2012 to 86 per cent in 2020) their savings fall away after they reach 35 because they are bringing up children and often take part time work.

As the report says: “The design of automatic enrolment widens the gap between lower and higher earners in retirement and disadvantages those in second jobs.”

Women who take part time work or multiple part time jobs are simply excluded from getting a second private pension partly paid by their employer.

Some low paid women may never get a work pension

And those who never earn enough at work – there are an estimated 500,000 of them nearly all women – never get a second pension at all.

As the Association of British Insurers told MPs on the Commons Work and Pension Committee: “Women disproportionately work in lower paid jobs; 75% of those earning under the £10,000 AE earning trigger are women. They also make up the majority of multiple job holders, as much as 64%. This is significant as their total income could be over the AE earnings trigger, but as it is divided across multiple jobs they will not be automatically enrolled into a pension.’

Fortunately it looks like the Department for Work and Pensions is planning to do something about this though we may have to wait a couple of years before this happens.

A DWP spokesperson said :

“Automatic enrolment has helped millions more women save into a pension, with participation among eligible women in the private sector rising from 40% in 2012 to 86% in 2020 – equal to that of men. Our plans to remove the Lower Earnings Limit for contributions and to reduce the eligible age of being automatically enrolled to 18 in the mid-2020s will enable even more women to save more and start saving earlier.”

But this isn’t the only barrier. The report highlights three other issues, affordable child care, pension rights for divorcees and monitoring pension equality.

On child care the report highlights demands by the trade union, Prospect and the People’s Pension, one of the larger pension trusts, both call for help with child care including tax relief for the care of the under two year olds and a local authority grant for 3 and 4 year olds.

Make pension savings a compulsory part of a divorce settlement

The Pension and Lifetime Savings Association call for the law to be changed so pension rights have to be considered in divorce proceedings.

“The government should consider changing the law to ensure that pensions rights are considered on a mandatory basis as part of divorce. Currently pensions may only be considered if there is a financial settlement considered by the courts. The process of pension sharing on divorce could also be better streamlined to remove friction and delay for all parties.”

And finally the Government Equalities Office should impose a mandatory requirement on the DWP to publish gender pension gap statistics and then draw up proposals to speed up ending the gap. The GEO did not want to comment on this.

There is one ray of hope arising from the new state pension introduced in 2016. It has narrowed the gap between men’s and women’s state pensions. Women got 82pc of men’s pension in 2016. By 2020 it had narrowed to 92pc. But the DWP could not tell me when it would be 100 per cent.

Unless action is taking speedily a whole new generation of women are going to lose out to men. No one wants to suffer the fate of 50swomen who have been so badly treated again. They are already worse off because of the abolition of the second pension in 2016.

Chris Thompson, a retired pension expect, pointed out both men and women lost out over auto-enrollment. “Between 2012 and prior to 6 April 2016 when the new state pension started people were also paying into the state second pension if they were not contracted out.

” From the 6 April 2016 people ceased accruing state second pension so are now much worse off than under the old state pension system. A low earner about £46 pw worse off and a high earner about £67 pw. Another thing to remember is that losses do not take into account loss of inherited and derived rights, loss of GMP indexation if contracted out or increase in NI due to loss of NI rebate.”

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

Robert Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

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

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

Disclosure buried half way through updated website statement

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

The key words are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DWP ignored deadlines in previous cases

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

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

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

Instead they issued this statement:

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

“Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.”

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

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

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

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