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Complaints about communication of changes to women’s State Pension age

In October 2018, we issued a proposal to investigate a sample of complaints brought to us about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) regarding changes in Women’s State Pension age.

When the judicial review was announced, we found that it would consider issues related to those we were proposing to investigate. We paused looking at these complaints while those issues were being considered by the court.

After carefully considering the High Court ruling, we plan to resume looking at a sample of six complaints relating to the communication of changes to women’s State Pension age. We have written to the six complainants in the sample to ask them to confirm that they are happy for us to proceed with our revised proposal to investigate, which takes account of the High Court ruling. When we receive their confirmation, we will begin the investigation.

Recommendations we cannot make

Many complainants have told us they are seeking reinstatement of their State Pension, the State Pension age to revert to 60, and/or compensation for the amount of State Pension they would have received had their State Pension age not changed. 

The recent High Court decision has made clear that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions. Moreover, we cannot recommend that anyone receive their State Pension any earlier than the law allows. To do so would in effect reverse or try to reverse the effect of primary legislation.

Deciding what recommendations to make

When we find an injustice was suffered as result of maladministration, we make recommendations which might include compensation.

To decide how much compensation to recommend we refer to our guidance about financial remedy including our Severity of Injustice scale and take account of relevant precedents. 

The Severity of Injustice scale contains six different levels of injustice that a complaint could fall into; each level includes a range of amounts of compensation we would usually recommend in those circumstances. For example, compensation for a Level 3 injustice would fall within the range of £500-£950.

Our website has copies of reports of other investigations we have done so you will be able to see the recommendations we have made in other cases we have investigated. 

The complaints we have received

We have received complaints about the DWP’s communication of changes to women’s State Pension age, first introduced by the Pensions Act 1995, and associated issues. 

Women say they have experienced financial loss and a negative impact on their health, emotional well-being or home life as a result.

We have received a significant number of similar complaints since we first proposed to investigate. Our review of the complaints shows that they relate to the same key issues. As we are currently proposing to investigate these key issues, we are not accepting any new complaints about them at present.

More information

Who is affected by the changes to State Pension age for women?

Women born after 6 April 1950 are affected by changes in state pension age introduced by the Pensions Act 1995 and further changes made in subsequent years. To see how you are affected visit the GOV.UK  website.

Why are you proposing to investigate when an application to appeal the judicial review is pending with the Court of Appeal?

We have now seen the judicial review judgment and know what issues the High Court made decisions about. We have considered this and we are able to proceed with our investigation while the application for appeal is ongoing.   

Are the issues that the Court looked at and the Ombudsman proposed to investigate the same? 

Not all of the issues we propose to investigate were considered as part of the judicial review, in particular DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling and the communication of changes to National Insurance.

Our investigation looks at the issues from a different perspective. We are proposing to investigate whether there was maladministration, where an organisation does something wrong or provides poor service.

Why have you only written to the six sample complainants?

We have written to the six complainants in the sample to ask them to confirm that they agree with the scope of our proposed investigation. We also explained the proposed approach to an investigation, the remedies an investigation will not achieve, and our approach to deciding remedies.

The six sample complaints cover all the issues complained about.

How will you investigate these complaints?

Firstly we will look at whether there was maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to women’s State Pension age. Maladministration is when an organisation does something wrong or provides poor service. We will look at what DWP should have done to communicate the changes in women’s state pension age, and whether it did this.

If we find maladministration, we will consider whether it led to injustice.

At this stage, we would also consider the complaints about DWP not adequately communicating the required number of years of national insurance contributions to receive a full state pension, as well as DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling.  

If we find there was an injustice that has not already been remedied then we will make recommendations to put things right.

Are you not accepting new complaints because you can’t manage the number of complaints you’re getting?

No. We are not accepting new complaints because no new issues are being complained about.

Does this mean that if somebody hasn’t had a complaint accepted by you already, they won’t benefit from any recommendations you might make?

No. If we investigate and make recommendations for compensation, we would ask DWP to apply those recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by any failings we identify.

When will you know whether you will investigate? 

We will confirm whether we will investigate once we have received and considered the sample complainants’ responses to our proposal to continue with an investigation.

Where can I find out more about the changes to State Pension age for women and the judicial review?

Parliament has updated its information on changes in the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s. This includes information about the judicial review. You can find out more on the Parliament.uk website.