Pension campaigners vindicated after Government slammed in ombudsman's report
Waspi protestors in the borough say their long fight for fairness in the way the age women can receive their state pension was changed has been vindicated by last week’s dramatic events.
A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) report found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to act on research findings to target their communications to those affected by the changes.
The highly-critical verdict has delighted campaigners and their political supporters who have spent years battling the Government over the issue.
Local Waspi groups have now said the Government needs to pay out urgently to women whose retirement plans were turned upside down by the state pension changes.
Jan Fulster, the joint co-ordinator of the Wigan and Makerfield Waspi Group, said: “The provisional findings reinforce what we, unfortunately, knew all along; that the DWP failed to adequately inform 3.8 million 1950s-born women that their state pension age would be increasing.
“We have been tirelessly campaigning on this issue since 2015 and have been repeatedly ignored and dismissed by the Government.
“The Government can no longer cover up its failings. It’s time, once and for all, to resolve this issue.”
Coun Pat Draper, Wigan Council’s Waspi champion, said: “I am delighted that the Waspi campaign and all our 1950s-born ladies and groups have been fully vindicated after six years of campaigning. I am proud of them all.
“The PHSO finds the DWP was guilty of maladministration between 2005 and 2009 by failing to give women enough notice of the change in their state pension age. It did not get it right.
“There is still a battle ahead to be given compensation but our groups have my full support as well as the Leader of the council Coun David Molyneux and we won’t rest until our women get the compensation they rightly deserve.”
The Waspi women of the borough have enjoyed strong political support during their long battle, with Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and former Leigh MP Jo Platt all backing them.
Coun Draper dedicated the ombudsman’s verdict to Leigh Waspi co-ordinator Gerry Miller, who died earlier this year.
The report rejects Government claims over the years that women had ample warning of the changes.
The report found it was not a lack of capability that delayed DWP from writing directly to affected women.
Instead, the DWP did not even explore writing to those affected until it reviewed “depressing” research which it commissioned itself on awareness levels.
Leaflets and pension statements which were distributed contained inaccurate or unclear information, the ombudsman said.
Only in 2009, 14 years after the changes were passed, did the DWP decide it was necessary to raise awareness of the changes.
Waspi says the impact on women has been devastating.
The PHSO will now proceed to stage two to work out if the maladministration led to injustice, and if it did it will then consider remedies.
If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here and viewing our offers.