Women’s State Pension age: our findings on the Department for Work and Pensions’ communication of changes

Our report highlights failings in the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) communicated changes to women’s State Pension age. You can read the full report here or download a PDF (1MB).

Summary of the complaint and our findings

1. We are investigating complaints that since 1995 DWP has failed to provide accurate, adequate and timely information about changes to the State Pension age for women. This document sets out our findings about the adequacy of DWP’s communication. For ease, references to DWP in this document include its predecessor departments as well as its businesses (for example, the Pension Service).

2. We find that between 1995 and 2004, DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age reflected the standards we would expect it to meet. Accurate information about changes to State Pension age was publicly available in leaflets, through DWP’s pensions education campaigns, through DWP’s agencies and on its website. That reflected those applicable standards.

3. However, DWP’s decision making following research reported in 2004 failed to give due weight to relevant considerations. The research recommended information should be ‘appropriately targeted’. DWP explored options for targeting information but, having considered the options, what it ended up doing was what it had already done. DWP failed to take adequate account of the need for targeted and individually tailored information or of how likely it was doing the same thing would achieve different results. Despite having identified there was more it could do, it failed to provide the public with as full information as possible. DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about next steps in August 2005 and failed to use feedback to improve service design and delivery. It therefore failed at this point to ‘get it right’ and ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was maladministration.

4. Following research reported in 2006, DWP failed again to ‘get it right’ and ‘seek continuous improvement’. It did not act promptly enough on its November 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women to tell them about changes to State Pension age. And it failed to give due weight to how much time had already been lost since the 1995 Pensions Act. That was also maladministration.

5. We consider that, if DWP had made a reasonable decision in August 2005 and then acted promptly, it would have written to affected women to tell them about changes to their State Pension age by, at the latest, December 2006. This is 28 months earlier than DWP actually wrote to them. It follows that these women should have had at least 28 months’ more individual notice of the changes than they got. The opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.

6. This report sets out:

  • our role (including when we cannot investigate and how we make decisions)
  • background relating to changes in State Pension age for women
  • evidence we have considered
  • what should have happened – the relevant standards
  • what the Courts have found
  • what did happen
  • our findings.