Government must act to end pensions injustice, says WASPI campaign group
Thousands of women who claim to have suffered injustice because they were not given 'adequate' notice of changes to their state pension age have submitted complaints for maladministration, according to the leader of a campaign group.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) - which has six groups in Yorkshire - claims that women born in the 1950s were not given sufficient notice of Government plans to equalise the state pension age between women and men.
WASPI has launched a campaign which aims to force the Government to offer transitional arrangements to these women. Earlier this year, a total of 184 MPS signed an early day motion in support of WASPI’s campaign. The group has also lobbied leading politicians, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
A WASPI spokesman said: “In addition to Parliamentary debates, questions, meetings and demonstrations, the WASPI campaign’s mass maladministration complaint to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also taken a significant step forward, mounting further pressure on the Government to identify a solution for WASPI women.”
“WASPI has been supporting women to submit thousands of letters via the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) in the DWP, with more and more being sent every day. Due to the high volume of complaints received, the ICE set up a separate department to deal solely with WASPI complaints. However, progress has been slow and the Ombudsman recently intervened and directed the DWP to streamline and speed up the process.”
The spokesman added: “WASPI welcomes the intervention of the Ombudsman, which could reduce the length of time before the complaints reach the Ombudsman by around one year, benefiting not only WASPI women, but also the taxpayer given the administrative costs for the ICE, DWP and the Ombudsman.”
“The Government could end the injustice suffered by WASPI women quickly and efficiently if it chose to,” said WASPI director, Jane Cowley. “We hope the progress with the maladministration case and the intervention of the Ombudsman will help them to reconsider. We echo the calls of MPs in the recent debate. They said, ‘Listen to the benches across the House of Commons and give us a proper vote.’”
A DWP spokesman said: “The decision to equalise the state pension age between men and women was made over 20 years ago and achieves a long-overdue move towards gender equality. There are no plans to change the transitional arrangements already in place. Women retiring today can still expect to receive the state pension for 26 years on average – several years longer than men.”
Between April 2009 and March 2011, the DWP sent letters to 1.2 million women born between April 6 1950 and April 5 1953, informing them of their state pension age under the 1995 Pensions Act, the DWP statement added.
In addition to this, letters were sent to more than 5 million people between 2012 and 2013 following legislation that accelerated the equalisation of men’s and women’s State Pension ages and brought forward the rise to 66.
The DWP statement added: “During the 2011 Pensions Act, the Government made a concession which slowed down the increase of the state pension age for women so no one would face an increase of more than 18 months, compared to the increase as part of the Pensions Act 1995. Transitional arrangements at a cost of £1.1 billion were made in order to lessen the impact of these changes for those worst affected.”
The WASPI campaign supports the principle of equalisation of the state pension age but does not agree with the “unfair” way the changes were implemented, said Jane Cowley, the director of WASPI.
Earlier this year, Angela Madden, a director of the WASPI campaign, said: “Many women born in the 1950s started work at 15 years old, and have worked for more than 40 years paying into the National Insurance fund expecting to retire at 60.”
Ms Madden said that the 1995 Act set out the equalise the state pension age for women and men, so women’s pension age was set to rise to 65 by 2020.
She added: “The 2011 Act brought this rise forward to 2018, and raised both men and women’s pension age to 66.
“Unfortunately, no-one thought to tell us, ’’ she added. “Some women received letters only two years before their expected retirement date informing them that their state pension age was up to six years later. Some women still haven’t been informed.”
According to Ms Madden, six years of “lost” pension adds up to an income loss of at least £36,000.