DWP accused of maldministration over pension change
Women have led a legal campaign
An inquiry has found that government officials delayed informing thousands of women they would be denied access to their state pension because of a change in the age when they qualified.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has identified a number of “failings” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after the state pension age was raised from 60 to 66.
As a result, many women experienced “significant” financial loss and emotional distress partly because they had not prepared for the change.
The outcome of the investigation brings the prospect of compensation closer for thousands of women born in the 1950s who have fought the government over the issue.
Daily Business 9 June
The PHSO stated that DWP had failed to take adequate account of the need for targeted and individually tailored information.
It also found that DWP failed to make a “reasonable decision” about next steps in August 2005 and failed to use feedback to improve service design and delivery, highlighting this as “maladministration”.
Indeed, the ombudsman said the DWP should have written to affected to women to tell them of the changes by, at the latest, December 2006. However, it did not communicate for another 28 months.
The PHSO also argued that DWP did not act promptly enough on its November 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women, and that it failed to give due weight to how much time had already been lost since the 1995 pensions Act, again identifying this as maladministration.
Furthermore, whilst the PHSO agreed with the recent court judgments, which ruled that there was no legal duty to communicate the changes, it clarified that this does not mean that there was no requirement for DWP to adequately communicate the changes “as a matter of good administration”.
The ombudsman’s investigation is now expected to shift to consider the impact these failings had and make recommendations to put things right for any associated injustice.
PHSO CEO, Amanda Amroliwala, commented: “After a detailed investigation, we have found that DWP failed to act quickly enough once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware of changes to their State Pension age. It should have written to the women affected at least 28 months earlier than it did.
“We will now consider the impact of these failings, and what action should be taken to address them.”
A DWP spokesperson stated: “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.
“In a move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the state pension age the same for men and women.”