Waspi compensation: What does the new report mean for women hit by state pension changes?

Waspi compensation: What does the new report mean for women hit by state pension changes?

Women who were affected by the state pension age rise must be compensated for government failings, a new report has found.

The state pension age for women has risen rapidly over the past few years to match men. In 1995, the government decided both would be brought in line between 2010 and 2020.

The increase in women’s state pension age from 60 to 65 sparked controversy, as millions of women claimed they weren’t adequately informed.

Waspi campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, 2020 (PA)
Waspi campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, 2020 (PA)

Many were forced to change their retirement plans, as they found themselves having to wait up to six extra years to retire (as the pension age for men and women increased to 66 in 2020).

The transition triggered the formation of the Waspi campaign group, standing for ‘Women Against State Pension Inequality’. Led by women born in the 1950s who were directly affected by the change, they call for compensation for the financial impact this had on them.

Figures put the amount of state pension lost for women born from 1953 to 1960 at between £8,116 and £12,140.

WASPI women gather at the statue of political activist Mary Barbour in Glasgow, 8 March (Getty)
WASPI women gather at the statue of political activist Mary Barbour in Glasgow, 8 March (Getty)

What does the new report change?

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) released the findings of its five-year investigation on 21 March. It was damning assessment of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) handling of the issue.

The Waspi groups claims of the changes being poorly communicated was partly upheld by the PHSO, with the report stating that “too many people did not understand their own situations and how the new State Pension affected them personally”.

The report calls the DWP’s failure to respond to official feedback on the issue “maladministration”.

It also covers the DWP’s complaint handling procedure, and finding that the government department “did not adequately investigate or respond to the complaints it was considering” – another maladministration.

However, while the PHSO report accepts that the DWP’s poor communication caused some women to lose “opportunities to make informed decisions”, it also makes clear that they do not believe it led to “direct financial loss”.

Responding to the report, Green MP Caroline Lucas tweeted: “WASPI women were failed & are owed compensation. But DWP remains indifferent & shockingly has already indicated it won’t comply.

“Parliament must urgently step in & ensure justice & fair remedy are finally delivered for 1950s women.”

Will Waspi get compensation now?

If the findings of the report are followed, this will be the long-awaited beginning of a remedial process for the women who were financially impacted by the changes to state pension rises.

The DWP has so far indicated no intention to compensate any Waspi campaigners. 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.”

In light of this, the PHSO states it is “taking the rare but necessary step of asking Parliament to intervene” to ensure compensation is provided quickly.

The exact amount this compensation should comprise is another question. The PHSO report identifies the appropriate amount of compensation for the typical impacted woman as between £1,000 and £2,950.

This is the amount the Ombudsman feels warrants the level of injustice which has taken place, where an issue has a “lasting” impact that could “take over” someone’s life to an extent.

The figure will likely come as a disappointment to Waspi campaigners, who had been seeking a sliding scale of compensation, with the worst affected receiving “in excess of £10,000”.

A submission from the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on state pension inequality to the PHSO in 2022 backed this compensation amount. They claimed that the level of injustice is more severe than the new report’s findings, and warrants payments of over £10,000.

Following to the report, Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, who chairs the APPG, tweeted: “This report is not the robust vindication owed to those who’ve fought years to reverse the disgraceful injustice faced by millions of women born in the 1950s, denied money due to them after Govt increased state pension age without reasonable warning.

“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.”

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the DWP 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.”