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

Rob Behrens -Parliamentary Ombudsman

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

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

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

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

“I would therefore be grateful if you could clarify:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our provisional view about remedy is that DWP should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna Wallace destroyed all the complaining letters from 50swomen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor of the Exchequer

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

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

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

Ian Byrne MP

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

Chloe Smith, work and pensions secretary

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

Chloe Smith MP

Secretary of State

Department for Work and Pensions

Caxton House

Tothill St

London, SW1H 9NA

XX October 2022

Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WASPI want compensation for maladministration and nothing for restitution

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

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

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

New petition on Guaranteed Minimum Pensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

My reporting and coverage of the confidential provisional Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Report into the maladministration has caused considerable controversy particularly among the people at the top of Waspi. People who follow me on Backto60 have been very grateful for keeping them informed. People on Waspi have objected to me publishing it at all and have kept their members in the dark about its contents. Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, is constrained by law from publishing it while his investigation continues. People at the top of Waspi have accused me of only publishing snippets which undermine Waspi’s case.

To dispel any doubts here is the full summary of his findings (the report is 298 paragraphs long) – though there is a link in a comment on my previous blog to the full report in the comments section. You can see the Ombudsman makes it clear that maladministration over a 28 month period ” caused complainants unnecessary stress and anxiety and meant an opportunity to lessen their distress was lost.  For some complainants, it also caused unnecessary worry and confusion.” But it rejects that ” this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.”

In other words it has no intention of compensating people who have lost up to £50,000 through the changes or anywhere near this. Need I say more. Here is the summary.

Provisional views

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

The issues we are considering and our provisional views

  1. In July 2021 we issued the report for stage one of our investigation into complaints about the adequacy of DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age, and associated issues.  We found that maladministration led to a delay in DWP writing directly to women about changes to their State Pension age. 
  • We are now working on stage two of our investigation.  This stage is considering complaints about:
  • DWP’s communication of changes to the number of qualifying years National Insurance contributions required for a full State Pension
    • DWP’s complaint handling
    • the Independent Case Examiner’s (ICE’s) handling of complaints about DWP’s communication of State Pension age changes.  
  • It is also considering the impact of any failings by DWP and ICE, including the injustice arising from the maladministration identified during stage one of our investigation.   
  • This document sets out:
  • a summary of our provisional views
    • the evidence we are considering
    • our analysis so far of DWP’s communication of changes to National

Insurance qualifying years, including o background 

  • what should have happened – the relevant standards 
    • what did happen o our provisional views
    • our analysis so far of DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling, including o what should have happened – the relevant standards
      • what did happen o our provisional views

our analysis so far of injustice

Summary of our provisional views

  • The evidence we have seen so far suggests timely and accurate information was available about the change in eligibility criteria for a State Pension, including how someone’s National Insurance record links to how much State Pension they can claim once they reach State Pension age.  Research showed the majority of people knew about the changes.
  • However, research also showed that too many people did not understand their own situations and how State Pension reform affected them.  The gap between awareness and understanding was highlighted by the Work and Pensions Committee and the National Audit Office. DWP does not appear to have used research and feedback to improve its service and performance.  In this respect, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good administration.  We think that was maladministration. However, we do not think this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.
  • Before 2016, people built up ‘qualifying years’ towards a Basic State Pension by paying National Insurance or through, for example, receiving benefits credits towards their National Insurance record.  Some people paid National Insurance to build up entitlement to an earnings-related State Pension on top of the Basic State Pension.  The earnings-related State Pension was called the Additional State Pension.  
  • Not everyone paid National Insurance towards the Additional State Pension.  Some people who joined personal or occupational pension schemes ‘contracted out’ of the Additional State Pension when they joined those schemes. While they continued to build up qualifying years for a Basic State Pension, they gave up their entitlement to the Additional State Pension. So, a person who had always contracted out would have been entitled to the Basic State Pension and their personal or occupational pension when they reached State Pension age, instead of being entitled to the Basic State Pension and Additional State Pension.
  • From April 2016, the new State Pension replaced the Basic State Pension and the Additional State Pension.  The full rate of the new State Pension is higher than the full rate of the old Basic State Pension.  People who were contracted out of the Additional State Pension before April 2016 but have reached or will reach State Pension age after April 2016 may not be eligible for the full rate of new State Pension.  A ‘contracted out deduction’ is made when calculating their starting amount of new State Pension to reflect the fact they contributed less into the National Insurance system in return for a personal or occupational pension. 
  1. Transitional arrangements introduced with the new State Pension mean that none of the complainants – or people like them – will get less State Pension under the ‘new’ rules introduced in April 2016 than they would have got under the ‘old’ ones.  DWP compares what they would have been entitled to under the old system and what they are entitled to under the new system, and they get the higher of these amounts.  The transitional arrangements also allow them to do things to add to their starting amount of new State Pension if it is lower than the full rate.  Having considered the complainants’ individual circumstances, we do not think they have lost any opportunities to add to their starting amount. 
  1. We also do not think maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age more likely than not led to all the financial, health, domestic and emotional consequences complainants claim. Complainants told us they made choices they would not have made if they had known their State Pension age had changed, and described the financial, family and health consequences those choices have had.  However, some of their choices had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them about changes resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act.  We do not think women lost opportunities to make different decisions, if those decisions had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them.
  1. However, we think an additional 28 months’ notice would have given complainants opportunities to consider, for example, saving, looking for work or changing job.  While there is too much we cannot now know for us to be able say what would have happened, it seems that some women are left not knowing whether they could have been in a different financial position, and whether they could have avoided the health and emotional consequences they claim.  We think that not knowing is an injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.
  1. We also think the anger and outrage complainants feel about not having as much notice of their State Pension age as they should have, could have been avoided if DWP had written to them when it should have.  Their sense of anger and outrage is a further injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.
  1. We think some aspects of DWP’s complaint handling reflected applicable standards.  But, DWP does not appear to have adequately investigated or responded to the complaints it was considering, or avoided unnecessary delay.  In these respects, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good complaint handling.  We think that was also maladministration. 
  1. We think maladministration in DWP’s complaint handling caused complainants unnecessary stress and anxiety and meant an opportunity to lessen their distress was lost.  For some complainants, it also caused unnecessary worry and confusion.
  1. We think ICE’s complaint handling reflected applicable standards and guidance.  ICE appears to have acted within the scope of its remit, which is set out in its contract with DWP. We note, however, our view that the contract meant ICE could not address complainants’ key concern that they did not have as much personal notice of changes to their State Pension age as they should have.
  1. Finally, we think ICE should have said that it could not determine whether or not DWP had written to individual complainants who said they had never received a letter about their State Pension age, instead of telling them it was more likely than not they had been sent a letter.  But even if ICE had appropriately balanced the evidence in this way, we do not think the shortcoming in its handling of this issue was significant enough to be a failure to ‘get it right’.

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Labour Conference: WASPI promise £10,000 minimum compensation for 3.6 million women pensioners but nobody is negotiating with them

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

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

Baroness Glenys Thornton the main guest pic credit Chris McAndrew

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

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

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

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

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

WASPI economical with the truth

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

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

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

She was much stronger on the plight of cold pensioners failing to keep warm during the present cost of living crisis and gave some advice on how campaigners could raise issues. This does seem to suggest that the pre 2019 election £60 billion compensation package promised by John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor, is being quietly dropped.

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

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

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

A statement on its site reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob Behrens Parliamentary Ombudsman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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A scandalous cover up: The DWP and Ombudsman let down millions of people promised an indexed Guaranteed Minimum Pension for life

Steve Webb, former Liberal Democrat minister, who piloted the change in pension law in 2014

Only two people given a total of £1250 compensation out of millions who lost out

This is a complicated story but bear with me. Under the old pension arrangements (abolished in 2016) employers who decided to contract out of the old SERPS scheme would save on their national insurance contributions (NICs) but promised whatever happened they would still maintain a Guaranteed Minimum Pension for their workers.

But they would not pay for the indexation of the pension once people retired. That money would be paid by the state. and still is for those who have the old state pension.

But from 2016 with the introduction of the new pension that would cease with the exception of people who received an occupational second pension in the public sector – and that includes ministers, MPs, civil servants as well as other public sector workers. This exception even covers any public sector worker who moved abroad to places like Canada and Australia where their basic state pension is frozen.

This change which could lead to people losing thousands of pounds over their retirement – was spotted independently by two knowledgeable people who having got nowhere with the Department for Work and Pensions complained to the Ombudsman. 11.5 million people affected had opted out of the scheme between 1978 and 1997.

Some 21 months ago the Ombudsman reported that they had been right to spot this. The report noted:

“The National Audit Office (NAO) and the Work and Pensions Select Committee considered that the DWP had provided insufficient and limited information to individuals about the potential negative impacts the new State Pension could have, particularly in relation to indexation on the GMP. The NAO said that some people were likely to lose out and could not find the information they needed.

DWP information was misleading

It concluded:

“The DWP communicated the impact of the 2014 Pensions Act legislative change to the public. ln communicating this change, the DWP said that individuals could increase their starting amount of new State Pension. However, people who were to reach SPA shortly after April 2016 were in fact unable to make significant additional NlCs to do this. The DWP’s information was thus misleading.”

Indeed the DWP gave the impression that the change would make a mere 36p a week difference when in fact people, especially women, would lose over their course of their retirement, thousands of pounds. It is very difficult to estimate how much, but a Treasury estimate on how much money those in the public sector will GAIN by keeping this right – suggests, if inflation stays at 2 per cent, it is £13,000 for every man and £18000 for every woman over their average life span. If it is 3 per cent, it is £19,000 for a man and £27,000 for a woman. Not 36p!

Once they had retired they could do nothing about it. The Ombudsman’s report says that between 2016 and today two million people have already been affected. The bulk of the people have still to claim their pension.

The ministry to confuse matters said that the new triple lock provisions for the basic state pension meant that on average people affected would only be between £2 a week worse off and £4 a week better off. But in fact that has nothing to do with the indexation of GMP, it was part of package of measures for the new pension.

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

If that change wasn’t bad enough the last 21 months nothing has happened. The Ombudsman made straightforward recommendations and wanted the ministry to report back in three months. He was ignored.

“The DWP should ensure that their literature clearly and appropriately references that some individuals, who have large GMPs and reach State Pension Age in the early years of the new State Pension, may be negatively affected by the changes.
“The DWP should direct individuals to check their circumstances. Further, the DWP should provide details to the public about how they can check their circumstances.. We have recommended that the DWP should ensure that anyone with a complaint of injustice arising from the same maladministration can have their concerns fully considered.”

Ombudsman has no power to compel the DWP to redress the injustice

Well so far the DWP has only offered to produce a fact sheet and not made any attempt to contact a single person who was misled . And the Ombudsman – who has no power to compel people to follow his recommendations – looks like letting them get away with it by agreeing to the offer. So only two people – the complainants Mr Smart and Stephen Kenny – have been compensated -offered £500 and £750 each respectively.

Despite some heroic efforts by Stephen Timms, the chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee and some questions from me the ministry has stonewalled in providing detailed information. Both the Ombudsman and the DWP are also silent on how the law was changed in 2014 -since the money was paid out before under the old system and those in public sector rather than the private sector now get it through their occupational pension.

Some readers might find this story eerily familiar. If you are a 1950s or 1960s woman it sounds like a rerun of the denial of pensions to millions of women between 60 and 66. Misleading information, nobody being told, and then no redress.

But there is also something alarming in this tale for the WASPI women who have placed their faith in the Ombudsman to save them. First compensation for the potential loss of tens of thousands of pounds is just £500 and £750. Secondly it could suggest if maladministration is proven that the DWP will just compensate the six women involved in the complaint and ignore the rest of the 3.8 million. Thirdly it looks like the DWP may ignore the Ombudsman’s recommendations -knowing he can’t compel them to do anything – or make it so difficult and obtuse for the women to claim that they will get nothing. After all you can’t prove you never had a letter!

A thank you to one of my readers Christopher Thompson who contacted me about this and helped with unearthing some of the key facts in this story.

John McDonnell explains the Labour pensions offer to 50swomen over more than tea and sympathy.

John McDonnell with Azhar Ali, Labour candidate for Pendle, explaining the offer to some of the women

For those who are following the fight by all groups to get compensation for 3.8 million women who have waited up to six years for their pensions, here is a detailed video with John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor on how he intends to implement the £58 billion package

There are a number of new points revealed in this video.

  1. Labour is looking at offering both a weekly payment and a yearly lump sum depending on whether the women would like it.
  2. The implementation of the plan would begin as soon as Labour enters government.
  3. Labour has already talked to Whitehall civil servants so they can work up the scheme immediately Labour gets into office.
  4. Every woman will get a letter to prevent the previous debacle under successive governments where women did not hear of the offer
  5. He discloses he has talked to Michael Mansfield, the QC, who is drawing up the appeal for BackTo60 who are seeking full restitution to make sure it cannot be legally challenged.
  6. Labour ruled out means testing the offer because they found it would be complicated and expensive to do this and would delay payments. Bad luck economist Frances Coppola your idea wouldn’t work
  7. Yes it would mean Theresa May and Harriet Harman would get payments – but because it is taxable they will have to pay a big chunk back.
  8. Means testing would also break the principle that it is a national insurance based payment – based on entitlement not a benefit.
  9. He reveals the BBC had great difficulty understanding what the deal was about and why he had decided to pay it.
  10. Finally for tech lovers the end of the video he talks about introducing a national free broadband system – citing a small tech company in a rural area which devises new games – but can’t expand because of the poor quality broadband in its area. He points out this will be a boost for business.

Permission to Appeal lodged in High Court for 3.8 million 50s born women who lost their pensions

Going back to the High Court for permission to appeal

The BackTo60 organisation which represents 3.8 million women who face up to six years delay to get their pension has lodged its application for permission to appeal at the High Court.

The decision to go ahead comes on the back of a successful crowd funding appeal which has raised over £70,000 of the £72,000 in a week. The fund raising is to remain open as it will have to cover both the legal action and further campaigning.

The mass media coverage in the Daily Mail and the Express following the judgement by Lord Justice Irvine and Mrs Justice Whipple to turn down the judicial review on all grounds to compensate the women has boosted interest in the case. Perversely the damning judgement created a wave of sympathy for the women and spread the word to a much wider audience.

Lawyers advising the group including Michael Mansfield have decided there are good grounds for appeal but will have to develop their case in seeking permission to appeal.

No date has been fixed yet for a hearing.

Meanwhile BackTo60 is receiving support from people who used to support the original Waspi campaign but now feel they are no longer interested in helping the bulk of the women who are affected by the big rise in the pension age.

One is Lizzie Spring, a former co-ordinator for Waspi in London.

She told me: ” I’m gobsmacked by the JR. I expected some restitution of our lost income, if not back to 60 at least back to the State Pension Age changes added in 2011. The tone and content of the ruling seems so adamantly ignorant of most women’s lives for the past fifty years. Some of it is risible. Men are discriminated against because women were expected to retire early from paid work, to do the housework, cook and provide them with company?  Women’s financial and domestic inequality and lack of opportunities are cultural norms?

” It is shocking that two very materially wealthy people that nobody has elected into power, have the right to inflict such beliefs on so many women. I am not coping with the situation well. It is bewildering to me and almost impossible to believe highly educated people really view women’s historical poverty and imposed inequality in this way. I’m also of course personally still facing being poor my whole old age so I’m frightened and furious about the outcome too.”

She is also scathing about the offer being negotiated with Therese
Coffey , the works and pensions secretary, by the two joint chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on behalf of Waspi Ltd.

” It means accepting a lower pension and only some compensation after the age of 63 I think it’s a disappointment. It  risks compounding the poverty of women with the least money who might take such an offer out of desperation.  It contains nothing to support the many women who’ve cashed in small private pensions and/or sold homes to survive for five plus years. The compensation after 63 would take ages to implement even if accepted and if not even backdated, would not be compensation but just a sop for a few. Those of us who’ve finally got state pensions but have spent all our lifetime savings while waiting, will presumably just continue to live in poverty, which is pretty bleak.”

Nor is she impressed by Boris Johnson seeking her vote
“Johnson’s entire shtick is being untrustworthy and it’s an embarrassment having him as PM. I’d not vote Tory anyway so his predictable betrayal of 1950s women doesn’t affect my vote.”

And she is interested in the idea of using a Special Temporary Measure in Parliament to compensate the women : “It’s quite exciting on first viewing. But If it’s used as a route it will need to be done with huge amounts of hard evidence.

“Whoever presented the case would need a great deal of sensitive intelligence in relation to how much women are apparently still resented if we ask for equality. If decisions are made by people with no understanding of inter-sectional discrimination it’ll likely have the same outcome. “

The signs are despite a campaign to try and suggest that the settlement being negotiated with the government by the two MPs Carolyn Harris and Tim Loughton is the only game in town, people are starting to vote with their feet and backing groups that want full restitution.