Thousands of Waspi women hit by pension age rise must be compensated now, landmark report says

Rishi Sunak is being urged to set aside billions of pounds to compensate women whose lives were “ruined” by government failures over changes to the state pension age.

A damning report said the affected women, born in the 1950s, should be offered an apology and payouts of between £1,000 and £2,950 after changes raising the age from 60 to 65 were not communicated properly, plunging their retirement plans into chaos.

The scathing 100-page report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) criticised the government for the handling of the changes, accusing them of failing to acknowledge the error or trying to put things right for those affected.

But Downing Street has so far refused to commit to paying compensation, which the watchdog said could cost the government up to £10.5bn on the recommended payouts.

MPs from across the political divide have urged the government to swiftly set up a compensation scheme, with some echoing the campaigners’ call that the figure should be at least £10,000 per person.

Rishi Sunak is being urged to set aside billions of pounds to compensate victims of the pensions fiasco (Carl Recine/PA)

(PA Wire)

The ombudsman also said the DWP had indicated it would not comply with the recommendation, a stance which it deemed as “unacceptable”. As a result, the PHSO said it was taking the “rare but necessary step” of asking MPs to intervene.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) chairwoman Angela Madden said there are parallels with other scandals in recent years such as the Post Office and Windrush and urged the government to “put their money where their mouth is”.

Appealing to Mr Sunak directly, and suggesting he put £36 billion for a higher payout for more women, she said: “I would ask him to do the right thing… and actually compensate us properly.

“His government and previous governments have caused great harm to Waspi women. They’ve ruined our lives. It’s worth a heck of a lot more than one or two grand.”

Senior Tory Peter Aldous, the vice-chairman of the State Pension Inequality for Women APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group), also backed the £10,000 figure, adding: “These millions of women worked, cared for families, and supported communities all their lives. They deserve the dignity of fast compensation.”

Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, fellow vice-chairwoman of the APPG, added: “The 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.”

WASPI campaigners have called for a more substantial compensation package


Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister called for parliament to decide “what, if any, blanket compensation is offered and whether there will be a scheme that those worst affected can claim from on a case by case basis”.

Fellow former pensions minister Steve Webb also urged parliament to act: “There is no point parliament having an ombudsman if the government ignores its carefully considered recommendations,” he said.

One WASPI campaigner added: “If it is £3,000, I’ve spent more than that on banners and train tickets to go to protests.”

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.

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”.

The government is under no obligation to follow the recommendations.

Waspi claim millions of women had their retirement plans “plunged into chaos”, with many thousands of pounds out of pocket, with more than 250,000 estimated to have died before receiving compensation. Some say they had to use foodbanks or sell their houses to survive.

The watchdog’s report detailed how women had suffered stress and anxiety, with many forced to “deplete” their savings, due to the government’s mishandling of the changes, which were introduced under the 1995 Pensions Act and raised the state pension age for women born on or after April 6 1950.

It found thousands of women may have been affected by the failure in communication.

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.”

The number of women who could be in line for compensation is unclear. The report said that compensating all 3.5 million-plus women born in the 1950s would cost between £3.5bn to £10.5bn.

Campaigners for Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign (Waspis) gather at the statue of political activist Mary Barbour

(PA Wire)

It noted that not all of them would qualift, but said there would likely be “significant number of women born in the 1950s” who have “suffered injustice because of maladministration.” Campaigners say 2.4m were affected by the pension changes.

According to the report, one woman told the ombudsman she had suffered a financial loss of £39,000. Another said she had lost about £45,000 because of reaching state pension age six years later than expected.

One, known as Ms E, claimed she had lost about £186,000 in potential work that she may have found if she been correclty told about the age increase. Another said she lost more than £442,000 in additional pay she would have earned had she stayed in her job.

Another woman, Ms I, told the ombudsman that her savings had been “depleted” and that she had grappled with a “great deal of stress” that caused her physical symptoms including chest pains.

Many of the other women interviewed said the ordeal had caused them to lose sleep and put great strain on their relationships.

While the consideration of any “direct financial loss” as a result of the change in the state pension age was not in the ombudsman’s remit, Ms Hilsenrath told BBC Radio 4’s that it had found that the women had experienced an “indirect financial loss” as a result of the “poor communication” of the government.

Conservative MP Peter Aldous has called for individual compensation payments of £10,000

(PA Media)

She said: “We were looking at the impact of poor communication. And what we found was it resulted in a lack of financial autonomy, a lack of the ability to make informed decisions about people’s plans for their retirement”.

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

It said the DWP had failed to provide “accurate, adequate and timely information” to those affected by the state pension age changes and had failed to “offer any apology or explanation for its failings and has indicated it will not compensate women affected by its failure.”

It added that DWP’s “handling of the changes” meant “some women lost opportunities to make informed decisions about their finances. It diminished their sense of personal autonomy and financial control,” it said.

The ombudsman has been investigating the issue for five years with the first stage, published in 2021, saying the government was slow in informing women how they would be affected by the change.

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