The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was too slow to inform women that they could be affected by changes to the state pension age, but no decision has yet been made as to whether they will be compensated.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman ruled in July that the way the Government failed to properly inform women about the state pension age was maladministration. However, it remains uncertain whether compensation will be granted to these women to make up for their ‘lost pensions’.
The age at which women could start claiming their state pension rose to 65 in 2018 to bring it in line with men’s state pension age. It now sits at 66 for both men and women, and will increase for both in years to come, reaching 67 in 2028.
The Ombudsman’s decision follows years of campaigning by Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality), who argue that the DWP did not do enough to tell nearly 4 million women born in the 1950s about the increase in advance.
Why is the state pension age rising?
An increase in general life expectancy in the UK has led to a rise in the age at which you can start claiming your state pension.
The changes to women’s state pension age are believed to have affected 3.8 million women in the UK. A woman born in 1950 will have been able to claim her state pension in 2010, but a woman born in 1955 will have had to wait until this year to start claiming.
This news came as an unwelcome shock to many women born in the 1950s, some of whom assumed they would be able to stop working at the age of 60, and who claim that the changes weren’t properly communicated to them beforehand. This has had devastating emotional and financial effects on many of these women, many of whom have had to continue working much longer than they’d intended to, or have struggled to make ends meet as they were relying on their state pension to provide them with an income earlier.
Economic challenges faced by women in their 60s
Although the DWP’s changes were intended to put men and women on equal footing, the reality is more complex, with many women at that age still being at a significant disadvantage to their male counterparts.
Not only is the gender pay gap widest for women in their 50s, but decades of unequal gender pay means that there is a considerable difference between the average woman’s pension savings and the average man’s. According to research by the Pensions Policy Institute in 2019, women in their 60s will on average retire with £51,000 of savings, compared to men who on average will retire with £157,000 of savings. Additionally, research by Scottish Widows found that women typically don’t take their fair share of pension savings following a divorce. Seven in 10 couples don’t consider pensions during divorce proceedings, the insurer found, leaving women short-changed by £5 billion every year. Find out more about the pension gender gap in our guide Women and the gender pension gap.
The Backto60 and Waspi campaigns
A legal push to have the government’s actions reviewed occurred in 2019, when Julie Delve and Karen Glynn took their case to the High Court. They claimed that the decision was discriminatory based on grounds of both sex and age, and that they had been given insufficient notice of the changes. The two women pushed for the women’s pension age to be reverted to 60, and demanded financial compensation for all women affected, in what was branded the Backto60 campaign.
Both their claim and their subsequent appeal were turned down by the High Court, who ruled that the government had not acted inadequately. Learn more about this in our article Backto60 women lose state pension appeal.
The Waspi campaign is a separate group who have staged several public protests since 2018 over the DWP’s perceived failure to communicate the changes. Waspi don’t oppose the increased state pension age itself, but take issue with the fact that these changes occurred with little to no notice given to the women affected, and are also demanding compensation.
The Ombudsman’s decision
The Ombudsman is an official body that acts independently of the Government and the civil service. It’s their job to consider complaints from the public that government departments have behaved improperly or provided poor service.
In a summary on their website, the Ombudsman concluded that the DWP failed to “make a reasonable decision about targeting information to the women affected by these changes” in 2005, and neglected to write to these women in 2006 despite the idea being proposed. These failures were described as “maladministration”.
The Ombudsman’s decision marks a huge symbolic victory for the Waspi campaign and the millions of women who feel let down by the government, but they still don’t know whether they will be compensated.
According to the WASPI Campaign, a Government response to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s finding of maladministration, by the Department for Work and Pensions had been expected by now, but none has been received.
A spokesman for the Waspi campaign said: “This is an historic injustice, the largest case of maladministration ever brought to the Ombudsman, affecting 3.8 million women. The Government knew they had failed to communicate the changes adequately and chose to do nothing about it. The time has come for this matter to be addressed by the Government and fair and reasonable compensation to be offered to the women affected by the maladministration.”
If you’re not sure when you’ll receive your state pension, you can use the government’s state pension age calculator here. To find out more about the state pension, read our article on How the state pension works.
If you have been affected by the changes to the women’s state pension age and are seeking work, you can search for jobs in your local area here. You can also find information on benefits which might help you bridge the financial gap if you’re struggling to make ends meet here.
If you’re not sure whether you qualify, or don’t know how to start your claim, see our article on Five free sources of help if you’re making a benefits claim. If you need additional support, it may be worth exploring whether you’re eligible for charitable assistance. Find out more about charities that help women in need.
Were you affected by the change to the women’s state pension age? Do you feel like you were adequately informed ahead of time? We’d be interested in hearing from you. You can join the conversation on the Rest Less community or leave a comment below.