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Government should compensate Waspi women for pension trickery, ombudsman finds

THE government faced demands to apologise and fairly compensate thousands of women whose retirement plans were demolished overnight after the raising of the retirement age. 

A five-year investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) released today found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to adequately communicate the rise in pension age.

Some 3.8 million women born after April 6 1950 were hit by the changes. 

Many had no idea they would have to wait longer to receive their pension, suffering grave financial and emotional distress as a result.

In 1995 the Tory government’s Pension Act included plans to increase the women’s state pension age from 60 to 65 — the same as men’s. 

The plan was to implement the change from 2010 to 2020.

However the timetable was accelerated faster with the 2011 Pension Act, and brought forward to 2018, with many left in the dark.

The PHSO report said that to date, DWP has not acknowledged its failings. 

It urged the government department to “do the right thing” and apologise for the impact it has had on those affected.

The ombudsman said that the DWP has so far “clearly indicated it will refuse to comply.”

The report recommended that the women receive a payout between £1,000 and £2,950. 

This falls under level four of the ombudsman’s “severity of injustice scale” which says it had a “significant” or “lasting” impact on those affected.

But campaigners have called for compensation to amount to at least £10,000, at level six of the scale — involving “devastating or irreversible injustice.”

The PHSO has asked Parliament to intervene and “act swiftly” to make sure a compensation scheme is established.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) chair Angela Madden argued a larger payout “far more clearly and reasonably recognises the injustice and loss of opportunities suffered.”

She added: “We are now looking to those who have supported us over the years to put their money where their mouth is and back us on a proper compensation package.”

According to estimates from Waspi, one person affected by the changes dies every 13 minutes. 

National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Jan Shortt said that “thousands of women have passed away since the campaign began, saving the government billions in unclaimed pension payments.”

Ms Shortt drew parallels with the Tories' refusal in the 1990s to pay compensation to miners who suffered the lung disease pneumoconiosis. 

The longer the government delayed, the less would have to be paid due to miners dying.

“To drag their feet would mirror the mistakes made with the miners’ compensation, and the Post Office debacle — relying on those due compensation passing away before it is paid,” Ms Shortt said.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the report makes it clear that the government “not only mistreated millions of working women whose retirement plans were demolished overnight, but has then repeatedly refused to acknowledge, apologise or put things right.”

She branded the DWP’s failures a “national disgrace.”

The PHSO report found that the DWP’s handling of the age changes eroded the affected individuals’ sense of personal autonomy and financial control.

It also meant they missed chances to make informed choices about their finances.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the rise had been “catastrophic for a whole generation of women” and “left their retirement plans in tatters.”

She added: “It’s only right the thousands of women left in dire financial straits are given compensation now. This has all taken far too long.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the government would now “consider the ombudsman’s report and respond to their recommendations formally in due course.

A DWP spokesman said: “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.”

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