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

We have concluded stage one of our investigation into the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) communicated changes to women’s State Pension age, and related issues.

We have 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 published stage one findings in our investigation report.

Background

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.

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.

Next steps

Stage one of our investigation looked at whether there was maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to women’s State Pension age. We looked at what DWP should have done to communicate the changes according to standards of good administration, and whether it did this.

We will now move on to stage two of our investigation and consider whether the failings we have identified led to an injustice for the complainants.

At this stage, we will also consider complaints about:

  • DWP’s communication about the number of years of national insurance contributions that are required to receive a full State Pension
  • 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.

By law, we investigate in private. This means we can't provide further information about our stage two and three findings while those stages of the investigation are ongoing.

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.

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. 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.

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.

Why didn’t you make a decision about maladministration sooner?

When the judicial review was announced, we understood that it would consider issues related to communication. We paused looking at these complaints while the court was considering the evidence presented.

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.

Since we began our investigation, we have needed to consider thousands of pages of evidence. We have taken the time needed to review the evidence and form a robust, fair and impartial view. 

When will you have completed stages two and three of the 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. We will ask DWP to apply any recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by 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, we will ask DWP to apply those recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by any failings we identify.

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.

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.