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Waspi women should get compensation from DWP over failures, says damning report

A watchdog has urged the Government to compensate the Waspi women hit by major changes to the state pension age in a damning report into failures at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) said women born in the 1950s were affected by the DWP’s failure to adequately inform them that the state pension age had changed.

However, the DWP has told the PHSO that it will “refuse to comply” with the recommendation of compensation – a response that the watchdog condemned as “unacceptable”.

The PHSO said it was now up to Parliament to vote to set up a compensation scheme to provide “remedy” to the millions of women affected by the pension change.

The Waspi group (Women Against State Pension Inequality) wants at least £10,000 for all 3.6 million women who expected to get their pension at 60, but had to wait another five or six years due to increases to the state pension age.

In the long-awaited report, ending a five-year investigation, the PHSO said the DWP was guilty of “maladministration”. The department’s failure to properly communicate state pension age changes meant some women “lost opportunities to make informed decisions about their finances”, it said.

PHSO chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath, said the ombudsman had made “a finding of failings by DWP in this case and has ruled that the women affected are owed compensation”.

She said: “DWP has clearly indicated that it will refuse to comply. This is unacceptable. The department must do the right thing and it must be held to account for failure to do so.”

Ms Hilsenrath added: “Given the significant concerns we have that it will fail to act on our findings and given the need to make things right for the affected women as soon as possible, we have proactively asked Parliament to intervene and hold the department to account.

“Parliament now needs to act swiftly, and make sure a compensation scheme is established. We think this will provide women with the quickest route to remedy.”

Women against state pension inequality (Waspi) protest outside the Houses of Parliament (Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP)
Women against state pension inequality (Waspi) protest outside the Houses of Parliament (Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP)

The Waspi campaign group say millions of women lost out from the raising of the state pension age, arguing that those who had retirement plans harmed by the change should be compensated.

The Waspi group says women born during the 1950s were not properly informed that their state pension would increase from 60 to 65, in line with men. It was later increased to 66 for both sexes, and is due to rise to 67 between 2026-28.

The campaigners say the lack of information meant some of the worst-affected women quit their jobs, and were the plunged into financial hardship because they did not have enough to live on for their retirement.

Angela Madden, chair of the Waspi group, said it would now be up to the Conservative Government – and opposition parties – to decide whether to set up a compensation scheme.

“It is now for each political party to put their money where their mouth is and support compensation of that order,” she said earlier on Thursday.

“Waspi women are watching and waiting to see whether politicians who have long supported the campaign will now deliver.”

Ms Madden previously told i that the political parties should agree to establish a two-tier compensation scheme, with £10,000 for all the women who received their pension much later than expected, and more for the worst affected.

She estimates that roughly one third of the 3.6 million Waspi women – around 1.2 million – suffered direct, demonstrable losses as result of pension changes, such as giving up jobs.

However, pension experts have warned that the Government may eventually set up a “highly targeted” compensation scheme focused only on those who can clearly demonstrate they lost out financially – in some cases by giving up jobs and retiring early.

The ombudsman published stage one of its investigation in July 2021. It found failings in the way DWP communicated changes to women’s state pension age.

In addition to paying compensation, the ombudsman made it clear that the DWP should admit its failings and apologise for the impact it has had on affected women.

It said the DWP had “failed to offer any apology or explanation for its failings and has indicated it will not compensate women affected by its failure”.

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