Women affected by state pension changes say recommendations 'not enough'

A woman from Wolverhampton affected by state pension changes says compensation recommendations by the ombudsman isn't enough.

Liz Latham is among a group of women born in the 1950s known as "Waspi women" (Women Against State Pension Inequality), who say the rise in the state pension age in 1995 led them to suffer financially.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman says the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to adequately communicate changes to women's state pension age, and that those affected are owed compensation.

The ombudsman has asked Parliament to intervene and “act swiftly” to make sure a compensation scheme is established.

Waspi campaigners had called for compensation of £10,000 for all 3.8 million women, but the report recommends between £1,000 and £2,950.

"It's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough", says Liz.

"There are going to be an awful lot of people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis, they've already had to downsize their homes, they've already had to sell off their assets."

"Some ladies have even been sleeping in cars and using food banks so this is going to be no relief to them at all", she adds.

Liz says the changes mean many women have not only suffered financially, but mentally and physically too.

"I've been through an awful lot of trauma. I've suffered redundancy, low wages, various serious health issues", explains Liz.

"I think what PHSO should have done was recommend something a lot higher, to take into account how long we've waited, to take into account what we've lost and to take into account what the government didn't offer us in the first place."

"They offered no alternative, they offered no sympathy, they've never offered any compassion. They've ignored us, they've treated us like they don't exist and it's been shambolic really, it's been disgraceful."

"If the shoe was on the other foot, I mean they've treated men totally different. Ladies from the 50s, the WASPIS, we were impacted from 2011. The men weren't impacted until 2016 and they only had their increase after one year. It was nothing to do with equality. It was absolutely shocking. And as i say people are still finding out now."

"People who haven't got access to internet and stuff like that, they're coming up to the age and they're thinking they're going to retire at 60 but they're going to have a damn big shock", she adds.

To date, the DWP has not acknowledged its failings, nor put things right for those affected, the report said.

The report found 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.

PHSO chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: ”The UK’s national ombudsman has made a finding of failings by DWP in this case, and has ruled that the women affected are owed compensation.

“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.

“Complainants should not have to wait and see whether DWP will take action to rectify its failings.

“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.”

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.

Speaking before the report's release, Health Minister Andrea Leadsom said: "I've had a number of constituents of my own who've talked to me about this over the years, and I do completely understand the issue".

Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Alison McGovern said: "When you're planning for your retirement future, you need to understand what you state pension entitlement is going to be, and if there are changes the government has a responsibility to deal with properly".

A DWP spokesperson said: “We will consider the Ombudsman’s report and respond in due course, having cooperated fully throughout this investigation.

“The government has always been committed to supporting all pensioners in a sustainable way that gives them a dignified retirement whilst also being fair to them and taxpayers.

“The State Pension is the foundation of income in retirement and will remain so as we deliver a further 8.5% rise in April which will increase the state pension for 12 million pensioners by £900."