Rishi Sunak urged to act after women’s lives ‘ruined’ by pensions age change

by The Technical Blogs

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Rishi Sunak has been urged to “do the right thing” and set aside billions in compensation for women whose lives were “ruined” when they were not told in good enough time about the rise in the state pension age.

The direct plea to the Prime Minister followed a report which concluded that those affected by state pension changes that were not communicated adequately should receive an apology and payouts.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has asked Parliament to intervene and “act swiftly” to make sure a compensation scheme is established.

They’ve ruined our lives. It’s worth a heck of a lot more than one or two grand

Angela Madden, Waspi chairwoman

The ombudsman said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has not acknowledged its failings nor put things right for those affected.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaigners said it is time for supportive politicians to “put their money where their mouth is” with “a proper compensation package”.

Chairwoman Angela Madden said there are parallels with other scandals in recent years such as the Post Office and Windrush, and said the Government had caused “great harm to Waspi women”.

She told the PA news agency: “They’ve ruined our lives. It’s worth a heck of a lot more than one or two grand.”

The ombudsman’s report has suggested compensation at level four, ranging between £1,000 and £2,950, could be appropriate for each of those affected.

This is a lower range than the £10,000 figure – level six – previously suggested by the State Pension Inequality For Women All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

The report, which found thousands of women may have been affected by the failure in communication, stated: “We recognise the very significant cost to taxpayers of compensating all women affected by DWP’s maladministration.

“Compensating all women born in the 1950s at the level four range would involve spending between around £3.5 billion and £10.5 billion of public funds, though we understand not all of them will have suffered injustice.”

The UK Government must right this historic wrong, and go beyond the recommendations of the… ombudsman and deliver fair compensation to these women as a matter of urgency

Rebecca Long Bailey, APPG vice-chairwoman

But Ms Madden suggested the ombudsman’s judgment had been “tempered to make it overall less expensive on the taxpayer and really that shouldn’t be his concern”.

She added: “His concern should be compensating each and every one of us for the injustices we’ve suffered.”

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP and vice-chairman of the APPG, backed the call for higher compensation, saying the women affected “deserve the dignity of fast compensation”.

“The campaign for justice for 1950s women goes on until Parliament reaches the right conclusion,” he added.

Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, fellow vice-chairwoman of the APPG, echoed this, saying: “The UK Government must right this historic wrong, and go beyond the recommendations of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and deliver fair compensation to these women as a matter of urgency.”

Asked what she would say to the PM, Ms Madden told PA: “I would ask him to do the right thing. He seems like a nice guy. His Government and previous governments have caused great harm to Waspi women.”

She said the Government had saved billions by raising the state pension age but “should have had the courtesy to tell us”.

She added: “I would ask Rishi Sunak to put £36 billion aside and actually compensate us properly.”

More than a quarter of a million women have died since the campaign began almost a decade ago, she said, as she urged Parliament to move quickly.

If appropriate compensation is not agreed before a general election, the campaigner said a plan should be in place within 100 days of a new government, and that the compensation scheme should “have absolutely paid out within the next term of government”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride is likely to appear in the House of Commons before the Easter recess to address the ombudsman’s recommendations, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt suggested.

PHSO chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said that despite the finding of failings by DWP and the ruling that the women affected are owed compensation, the department has “clearly indicated that it will refuse to comply”.

She said this was “unacceptable” and in light of “significant concerns we have that it will fail to act on our findings”, the ombudsman has asked Parliament to intervene and hold the department to account.

She said: “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.”

The 1995 Pensions Act and subsequent legislation raised the state pension age for women born on or after April 6 1950.

The ombudsman investigated complaints that, since 1995, DWP has failed to provide accurate, adequate and timely information about areas of state pension reform.

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.

The DWP’s handling of the pension age changes meant some women lost opportunities to make informed decisions about their finances. It diminished their sense of personal autonomy and financial control, the ombudsman said.

In addition to paying compensation, the ombudsman made it clear the DWP should acknowledge its failings and apologise for the impact it has had on complainants and others similarly affected.

It said it has received a series of complaints relating to how the DWP communicated a variety of state pension reforms, and concerns about communication of changes to the state pension age constitute only one area of complaint.

Both the DWP and the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government will consider the ombudsman’s report and respond to their recommendations formally “in due course”.

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