The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign has launched a fundraiser to finance a judicial review into the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, claiming it is “seriously mistaken” about the injustice WASPI women have suffered.
WASPI argues that women born in the 1950s were not given enough warning about the raising of the women’s State Pension age from 60 to 65 in 2018, and then to 66 in 2020.
While the campaign generally does not oppose the increased State Pension age, they hold the position that women were not given sufficient notice of the changes and were therefore unable to plan accordingly, suffering financially and emotionally as a result. For example, many had already left work or taken up caring responsibilities before realising they would not be able to claim the State Pension for another five years.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman stated in July 2021 that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to properly inform women about the State Pension age increase, finding evidence of “maladministration” in the DWP’s communication about the State Pension age. The Ombudsman concluded that clear letters about State Pension age changes should have been sent to women affected from December 2006. If that had happened, most women would have known about the changes by 2009.
A second report, issued in December 2022, stated that while there was further maladministration in DWP’s communication about National Insurance qualifying years and complaint handling, neither this nor their miscommunications about the State Pension age led to all the injustices claimed. The report appears to convey the view that most women would not have received letters about changes to their State Pension age until much later, which would have left most with no time to protect themselves financially.
Following frustrations with apparent inconsistencies in the Ombudsman’s investigation and having received legal advice, WASPI has now started a fundraiser to build a case for a judicial review, as it disagrees profoundly with the Ombudsman about the impact the DWP’s maladministration has had on WASPI women.
While the Ombudsman will not publish a full decision on any recommendations for compensation until its third report, to be published later, the main concern from WASPI is that a fair decision will not be reached based on the Ombudsman’s current approach.
A spokesman for the WASPI campaign said: “We believe the Ombudsman’s mistaken approach to injustice could mean many women – perhaps hundreds of thousands – receiving less compensation than they otherwise would. We cannot be certain about the numbers or the amounts and although the government normally follows Ombudsman recommendations, there is no right to compensation.” Having already raised their initial goal of £100,000 through donations, the campaign has set a new target of £150,000, hoping to build a “watertight legal case”. You can find out more about the case here.
“We have shared provisional views with complainants, their MPs and DWP. Once we have considered further evidence we will publish a full report on our findings.”
Following frustrations with apparent inconsistencies in the Ombudsman’s investigation and having received legal advice, WASPI has now started a fundraiser to build a case for a judicial review, claiming that the Ombudsman failed to follow due process. Having already raised their initial goal of £100,000 through donations, the campaign has set a new target of £150,000, hoping to build a “watertight legal case”.
As there is no process for appealing a decision by the Ombudsman, the campaign has officially filed papers for the judicial review from the High Court.
Hundreds of women joined together at Parliament Square at the beginning of March to protest the continued inaction of the Ombudsman and DWP, an event that coincided with International Women’s Day.
Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Dentonn and Reddish, has backed the WASPI campaign, calling for a full Government debate on the issue. Gwynne has pointed out that women are receiving communications from the DWP with false pension age information as recently as this year: “I have one here from 12 January 2023, saying that the State Pension age is 60 for a woman and 65 for a man.”
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 around 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 would have had to wait until 2021 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.
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 or you have caring responsibilities in our Government benefits section.
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.