Last week, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman released the first part of its long-awaited investigation into the Department for Work and Pensions. The investigation all centres on whether the DWP communicated effectively to 1950’s-born women about the changes to their State Pensions.
The report’s findings were no surprise, and vindicated what 1950s women have been saying for decades, namely that there was maladministration on the part of the DWP over successive Governments in communication about changes to women’s State Pensions. The report stated that the DWP “failed to make reasonable decisions based on the information available to it” and were too slow in telling women about how the changes to State Pension age would affect them.
The impact of this maladministration has been devastating for millions of women across the UK. Many have spoken about how they had no idea that their pensions had changed until it was too late and were left unable to make plans and economically prepare for the alteration. I’ve spoken to women in my constituency who have been unable to support their families, unable to meet care responsibilities, and have been impacted both mentally and physically as a result.
I have long backed the calls of 1950s women for recognition and compensation. I was a co-sponsor to one of the WASPI women who reported the DWP to the Ombudsman, and am also the co-chair of the All-party parliamentary group on State Pension Inequality for Women alongside the Conservative MP Peter Aldous. The APPG is a cross-party group of parliamentarians who work hard to keep the issue of State Pension Inequality alive. This report therefore felt like a watershed moment for me and the women that I have come to know so well over the years. They’ve marched outside Parliament innumerable times and have been ignored for far too long. I’ve seen first-hand the lack of meaningful engagement with WASPI women from Government ministers who want the issue forgotten.
The fact is WASPI women aren’t going anywhere. This is an issue that spans over 25 years, and none of the major political parties are blameless. We must see ministerial recognition of this issue, and the current Government and the DWP must take proper action to address the concerns of these women. Now that the Ombudsman has found maladministration, it makes it much harder for the DWP to argue against compensatory policies, and I hope this moment is a catalyst for real change.
Until then, however, I and the APPG will continue to stand with 1950s women. They are the toughest of the tough, and I know that together, we will eventually get some form of justice.