State pension age changes were made in the mid-1990s, as the DWP introduced a new state pension act. This act raised state pension ages for women born in the 1950s from 60 to 65 – and subsequently 66 – to equalise it with men.
This decision proved controversial, with many affected women arguing they weren’t informed well enough of the changes and were left unprepared as a result.
The issue led to a number of organisations arising to push the Government for change and remedial actions on this, which included WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) and the Back to 60 campaign.
WASPI took the issue to court a number of times and while these efforts were often unsuccessful, the organisation recently gained a win.
Recently, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) ruled there were a number of “failings” in how the DWP communicated the changes to affected women.
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Ever since the report was released, Dr Coffey has faced pressure to act and Kevin Jones, the Labour Member of Parliament for North Durham, wrote to the Secretary of State urging action.
In a letter dated July July 29, 2021, and addressed directly to Dr Coffey, Mr Jones said: “Almost 6,000 women in my North Durham Constituency have been adversely impacted by the changes to the state pension age and the maladministration of Government to communicate the changes to those would be affected.
“Now that the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has ruled that maladministration did occur, I am writing to ask what action you will be taking to address these failures.
“The lives of thousands of my constituents have been turned upside down by this and we urgently need the Government to take responsibility for this failure and offer real support to my constituents.”
As maladministration was found in the first stage of the investigation, stage two will examine whether an injustice has taken place for the complainants.
If an injustice is identified, which has not already been remedied, a third stage will be entered.
The PHSO will then be able to make remedial recommendations but it cannot recommend the DWP reimburse “lost” pensions, or revert the state pension age back to 60.
However, it can still make recommendations for compensation to be paid.
Following the PHSO’s announcement, a DWP spokesperson issued the following statement: “Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive Governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.
“In a move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the State Pension age the same for men and women.”
As it stands, the new state pension age is 66 for most people.
However, the Government plans to increase this to 67 between 2026 and 2028 and beyond this, it will rise to 68 by 2046.