Ombudsman relieves WASPI group feeling stung by complaint backlog
Equality is easier said than done. An example of this is Women Against State Pension Inequality (“WASPI”); a group concerned that, due to changing timelines and ineffective communication, aligning
women’s state pension age with that of men (from 60 to 65) adversely impacts some women nearing retirement.
The 1995 Pension Act set a timetable introducing the change over a ten year period, from 2010-2020. The problem was poor communication meant many were unaware of the change, so did not plan around it. This was exacerbated by the Pension Act 2011 which accelerated the timetable for increasing women’s state pension age.
WASPI encouraged those affected to send complaints to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); the complaints relate to ineffective communication about the changes and the accelerated implementation of the changes. Thousands of complaints were sent to the independent case examiner (ICE). Delays and lost documents followed. WASPI learnt a specific department was set up to deal with the complaints due to the volume; three individuals comprised this department and of the thousands of complaints sent, only six investigations have been concluded. WASPI’s legal adviser, Bindmans, requested streamlining a number of times to no avail.
Bindmans contacted the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman who has intervened; the ICE has agreed to streamline the process and investigate a sample of complaints to assess how the misconduct should be dealt with. The streamlined process divides complaints into two groups – those impacted only by the 1995 Act (poor communication) and those impacted by both 1995 Act and the 2011 Act (poor communication and acceleration of timetable). Bindmans will assist the ICE to identify six representative samples for both groups and assess an appropriate way to approach the issues.
It is thought the Ombudsmen involvement may shorten the process by up to a year.