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

What the Courts have found

68. We are aware of the Court judgments relating to recent judicial review proceedings4. DWP told us that the Courts have already ruled that:

  • there was no legal duty to communicate the changes in State Pension age, and
  • the Courts found as a matter of fact that the steps DWP took to communicate the changes were adequate.

69. We agree that the Courts have ruled there was no legal (that is, statutory or common law) duty to communicate the changes. However, as noted earlier, this does not mean that there was no requirement for DWP to adequately communicate the changes as a matter of good administration.

70. On the second point, DWP drew attention to paragraph 123 of the High Court’s judgment, including that ‘we are not in a position to conclude that the steps taken to inform those affected by changes in [State Pension age] for women were inadequate or unreasonable’, and paragraph 120 of the judgment by the Court of Appeal including that:

‘[the High Court] were fully justified in holding that they could not conclude that the notice provided to the Appellants’ cohort had been inadequate or unreasonable … the Divisional Court were entitled to conclude as a fact that there has been adequate and reasonable notification given by the publicity campaigns implemented by the Department over a number of years.’

71. We have carefully considered the Courts’ judgments. The High Court held that the claim that DWP gave inadequate notice of the changes failed ‘as a matter of law’ because there was no legal duty requiring DWP to give notice of the changes in the first place. We do not consider paragraph 123 of the High Court’s judgment amounts to a positive finding that the steps taken were adequate, judged by reference to any legal duty, given that no such duty was found to exist. And the High Court did not reach a judgment, nor could it have, about what good administration required.

72. The Court of Appeal could only consider the appeal against the High Court’s ruling. In doing so, it dismissed the appeal in relation to the notice requirements ‘on the basis that there was no duty to notify those affected by the change in state pension age’. The incidental comment in paragraph 120 of its judgment could not amount to a finding of fact that the steps taken to notify were adequate and reasonable. And it could not amount to a finding in relation to whether the requirements of good administration were met.

73. In summary, therefore, we consider the Courts only reached a binding decision on the question of whether a legal duty to notify existed. No finding of fact was made about the adequacy or otherwise of DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age.

4 R (Delve) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2019] EWHC 2552 (Admin) and [2020] EWCA Civ 1199.