Complaints about communication of changes to women’s State Pension age

We are continuing our investigation into the Department for Work and Pensions' communication of changes to women’s State Pension age, and related issues.

In October 2018, we issued a proposal to investigate a sample of complaints brought to us about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) regarding changes in Women’s State Pension age.

When the judicial review was announced, we found that it would consider issues related to those we were proposing to investigate. We paused looking at these complaints while those issues were being considered by the court.

Following the High Court ruling, we began our investigation into a sample of six complaints about DWP’s communication of changes to women’s state pension age.

Our investigations have a number of stages. Before we consider finalising an investigation report, we issue provisional views. Once any comments or further evidence has been considered, we issue a final decision. At the present time, we are considering comments received on our provisional findings for stage one of our investigation.

By law, we investigate in private. This means we can't provide further information on our findings until our investigation is complete.

How we are investigating these complaints

There are three stages to our investigation.

The first stage is looking at whether there was maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to women’s state pension age. Maladministration is when an organisation does something wrong or provides poor service. We will look at what DWP should have done to communicate the changes in women’s state pension age, and whether it did this.

If we find maladministration, we will then move to the second stage and consider whether it led to an injustice for the complainant.

At the second stage, we would also consider the complaints about DWP not adequately communicating the required number of years of national insurance contributions to receive a full state pension, as well as DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling. 

If we find there was an injustice that has not already been remedied then we will proceed to the third stage and make recommendations to put things right.

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.

The 2019 High Court decision underlined that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions. We also can't recommend that anyone receive their state pension any earlier than the law allows. To do so would 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.

Our website has copies of reports of other investigations we have done so you will be able to see the recommendations we have made in other cases we have investigated.

The complaints we have received

We have received complaints about DWP’s communication of changes to women’s state pension age, first introduced by the Pensions Act 1995, and associated issues. 

Women say they have experienced financial loss and a negative impact on their health, emotional well-being or home life as a result.

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. As we are currently investigating these key issues, we are not accepting any new complaints about them at present.

More information

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. To see how you are affected visit the GOV.UK  website.

When will you make a decision about maladministration?

We have received comments from DWP and complainants about our provisional views for stage one of the investigation. Stage one is looking at whether there was maladministration. In line with our usual process, we need to thoroughly consider the comments we’ve received and any further evidence made available to us. This is so we can reach a robust and impartial decision. 

We will make a decision about maladministration once we have considered the comments we have received. 

When will you have completed your investigation?

It is not possible to say how long it will take to reach a conclusion. How long an investigation takes varies depending on its complexity and the amount of evidence to review.

Why are you only investigating six sample complainants?

The six sample complaints reflect the range of issues complained about. If we make recommendations, we would ask DWP to apply those recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by any failings we identify.

The six sample complainants have agreed to the scope of our investigation.

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 for compensation, we would ask DWP to apply those recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by any failings we identify.

Does the recent Court of Appeal judgment affect your investigation?

We have reviewed the Court of Appeal’s judgment and it does not affect our investigation. Our investigation is looking at the issues from a different perspective to the courts.

Will you investigate complaints about auto-credits?

Some women have raised concerns about National Insurance auto-credits being paid to men but not women. They say this was unfair and discriminatory.

We can only investigate complaints relating to the services provided by government departments. We can't investigate complaints that the law is wrong. This means we can't investigate these complaints about auto-credits.

We can investigate complaints about failures in how government departments deliver services and apply the law. This includes complaints that women were given inaccurate information about the number of years of National Insurance contributions they needed to receive a full State Pension. 

We will be looking at this issue as part of stage two of our investigation into the communication of changes in state pension age. 

Will you investigate complaints about women not being paid an uplift to their State Pension?

Some women have complained to us about not being paid an uplift (top up) to their State Pension based on their husband’s National Insurance contributions. They say DWP did not tell them they could claim the uplift, or that notice was sent to their husbands and not them. They say they have suffered financial loss and they want us to recommend the uplift is backdated to when they could have first claimed it.

Rules about claiming benefits and how long benefits can be backdated are set out in law.  We can't make recommendations that would undermine the law. Therefore, we cannot recommend women’s State Pension uplifts are backdated for longer than the law allows.  

We are not investigating these complaints because we can't achieve what women have told us they want.  

Where can I find out more about the changes to state pension age for women and the judicial review?

Parliament has updated its information on changes in the state pension age for women born in the 1950s. This includes information about the judicial review. You can find out more on the Parliament.uk website.