Last updated: 21 November 2023
We had intended to publish our final investigation report by the end of March 2023. Following a legal challenge, we agreed to look again at part of our stage two findings. This has delayed the publication of our final report.
We have now looked at our findings and have shared our provisional views about injustice resulting from the maladministration we identified during stage one, and our thinking about remedy, with complainants, their referring MPs and the DWP. They all have an opportunity to comment on our provisional views before we make any final decisions about these issues.
Our investigation has been complex, and it has taken a considerable amount of time. We appreciate the impact this will have had on the women affected. There have been many delays outside of our control. We have granted five extensions to allow involved parties additional time to consider our views and provide comments, and following the legal challenge, it was only right that we looked again at part of our stage two report. We have carefully analysed over 650 pieces of evidence over the course of our investigation to make sure any findings are robust and evidence based.
As an independent Ombudsman, our duty is to provide the right outcome for all involved and make sure justice is achieved. The cooperative approach we have taken to looking again at injustice will provide the quickest route to remedy for those affected.
The 1995 Pensions Act and subsequent legislation raised State Pension age for women born on or after 6 April 1950. Women complained to us that DWP did not adequately communicate these changes. They say they have experienced financial loss and a negative impact on their health, emotional well-being or home life as a result.
They also complained that they suffered financial loss due to DWP inadequately communicating how many National Insurance qualifying years they need for a full State Pension. They told us that DWP’s and ICE's handling of their complaints about these issues had a negative effect on their emotional well-being.
We have received a significant number of similar complaints since we first proposed to investigate.
Our review of the complaints shows that they relate to the same key issues. For that reason, we are not accepting any new complaints about these issues at present.
Stage one of our investigation found that between 1995 and 2004, DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age reflected the standards we would expect it to meet.
But in 2005, DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about targeting information to the women affected by these changes. That was maladministration.
In 2006, DWP proposed writing to women individually to tell them about changes to State Pension age but it failed to act promptly. That was also maladministration.
We have already published our report for stage one.
Recommendations we can’t make
Many complainants have told us they are seeking reinstatement of their State Pension, the State Pension age to revert to 60, and/or compensation for the amount of State Pension they would have received had their State Pension age not changed.
A 2019 High Court decision underlined that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions. Nor can we recommend that anyone receive their State Pension any earlier than the law allows or gets more State Pension than they are entitled to. To do so would amount to us recommending DWP reverse or try to reverse primary legislation.
Deciding what recommendations to make
When we find an injustice was suffered as result of maladministration, we make recommendations which might include compensation is paid.
To decide how much compensation to recommend we refer to our guidance about financial remedy (including our Severity of Injustice scale) and take account of relevant precedents.
The Severity of Injustice scale contains six different levels of injustice that a complaint could fall into. Each level includes a range of amounts of compensation we would usually recommend in those circumstances. For example, compensation for a Level 3 injustice would fall within the range of £500-£950.
You can see the recommendations we have made in previous cases in reports of our other investigations.
Who is affected by the changes to State Pension age for women?
Women born on or after 6 April 1950 are affected by changes in State Pension age introduced by the Pensions Act 1995 and further changes made in subsequent years. Information is available about State Pension age and the eligibility criteria for a State Pension on the GOV.UK website.
Why have you had to look again at your findings?
As an independent Ombudsman, our duty is to provide the right outcome for all involved and make sure justice is achieved. We agreed to look again at part of our stage two findings following a legal challenge. We hope this cooperative approach will provide the quickest route to remedy for those affected and reduce the delay to the publication of our final report.
What changes have you made to your findings?
We agreed to look again at part of our stage two findings following a legal challenge. We have shared our thinking about injustice and remedy with complainants and the DWP but have not yet made any findings. We will consider any further evidence we receive before making any final decisions about injustice and remedy.
Why aren’t your provisional views for stage two on your website?
By law we investigate in private. We have not yet reached any findings about injustice and remedy. We cannot publish our thinking while the investigation is ongoing.
Why is the investigation taking so long?
Our investigation has been complex, and it has taken a considerable amount of time. We appreciate the impact this will have had on the women affected. We have reviewed thousands of pages of evidence to make sure any findings are robust and evidence based, and taken the time needed to form a fair and impartial view.
There have been many delays outside of our control. We have granted five extensions to allow involved parties additional time to consider our views and provide comments, and following the legal challenge, it was only right that we looked again at part of our stage two report. This was quicker than going through the courts and our cooperative approach will provide the quickest route to remedy for those affected.
When will the investigation finish?
We cannot say how long it will take to conclude the investigation. How long an investigation takes varies depending on its complexity and the amount of evidence to review. We need to review and consider all relevant evidence. We have shared our thinking about injustice and remedy with complainants and the DWP who now have an opportunity to send us any further evidence they want us to consider before we make any final decisions.
Why are you only investigating six sample complainants?
The six sample complaints reflect the range of issues complained about. If we make recommendations to the DWP, we will ask it to apply any those recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by failings we identify.
Are you not accepting new complaints because you can’t manage the number of complaints you’re getting?
No. We are not accepting new complaints because no new issues are being complained about.
Does this mean that if somebody hasn’t had a complaint accepted by you already, they won’t benefit from any recommendations you might make?
No. If we make recommendations to the DWP, we will ask it to apply those recommendations to everyone who has been affected by any failings we identify.
Where can I find out more about the changes to State Pension age for women?
Parliament has updated its information on changes in the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s. You can find out more on the Parliament.uk website.