Renewed hope for WASPI campaigners in South Tyneside after ombudsman finds failings in the way state pension changes were communicated
Campaigners calling for justice over changes to women’s state pensions have been buoyed by a Parliamentary body’s investigation into the Government’s handling of the matter.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has ruled there were clear shortcomings in the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) communicated changes to women over a 1990s change to the state pension age.
The 1995 Pensions Act changed the law so that women would no longer be able to claim their state pension at 60.
The Ombudsman received a significant number of complaints concerning the way this was communicated by the DWP to the affected women. Many said that they were not aware of the changes, and experienced significant financial loss and emotional distress as a result.
PHSO has found that, from 2005 onwards, there were failings in the action taken by the DWP to communicate the state pension age.
The investigation report has now been laid before Parliament. It describes how the DWP failed to make reasonable decisions based on the information available to it, and failed to communicate with the women affected with enough urgency.
The Ombudsman will go on to consider the impact these failings had and make recommendations to ‘put right’ any associated injustice.
Rosie Willoughby, a long-time WASPI campaigner in South Shields, said the report’s conclusions had given her a fresh sense of ‘hope’.
“This is a good thing,” she said.
"It’s been going on for a lot of years. I still remember finding out about the changes – and they moved the goalposts a few times, from 60 to 66 eventually.
"I was then working in a nursery and I have rheumatoid arthritis, so you can imagine the strain I was under. I’m just really glad it finally seems we’re being listened to.
"I hope this is a first step towards an injustice being finally addressed after all this time.”
South Tyneside’s MPs praised the efforts of campaigning WASPI women across the borough and called on the Government to look at what action could be taken to ‘address this injustice’.
Emma Lewell-Buck, the MP for South Shields, said: "For years now I have stood with WASPI women in South Shields and colleagues in Parliament (as a member of the WASPI APPG) to demand that the contract women born in the 1950s entered into with the state is honoured.
"Successive Tory Chancellors have refused to right this wrong claiming adamantly that WASPI women knew full well of the changes made to their state pension pot.
"This report, yet again proves the Government are wrong. It is time they apologised to these women for stealing their pensions and addressed this injustice.”
Jarrow MP, Kate Osborne, said: “I very much welcome the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s investigation into this important issue which has understandably had a devastating impact on thousands of women, many of whom have experienced significant financial loss and emotional distress.
“It really is alarming that the Ombudsman has concluded that the DWP failed to act quickly enough and it should have written to those women affected at least 28 months earlier than it did.
“Around 5,600 women in the Jarrow constituency have experienced financial difficulties as a result of the Conservative Government’s changes to the State Pension Age, and they must be financially compensated appropriately for their losses.
“As a supporter of the brilliant WASPI campaign for many years, I will continue to follow this issue closely, as the Ombudsman now considers the impact of these failings, and what action should be taken to address them.”