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

Last updated: 15 August 2022 

We are continuing work on stage two of our investigation into the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) communicated changes to women’s State Pension age, and related issues. 

Stage one of our investigation found that between 1995 and 2004, DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age reflected the standards we would expect it to meet.  

But in 2005, DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about targeting information to the women affected by these changes. That was maladministration. 

In 2006, DWP proposed writing to women individually to tell them about changes to State Pension age but it failed to act promptly. That was also maladministration.  

We have published stage one findings in our investigation report. 

Background 

The 1995 Pensions Act and subsequent legislation raised State Pension age for women born on or after 6 April 1950. Women complained to us that DWP did not adequately communicate these changes. They say they have experienced financial loss and a negative impact on their health, emotional well-being or home life as a result.   

They also complained that they suffered financial loss due to DWP inadequately communicating how many National Insurance qualifying years they need for a full State Pension. They told us that DWP’s and the Independent Case Examiner’s (ICE) handling of their complaints about these issues had a negative effect on their emotional well-being.  

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 investigating these key issues, we are not accepting any new complaints about them at present.  

Next steps 

We have shared the provisional views for the second stage of the investigation with complainants, their MPs, DWP and ICE. They now have an opportunity to provide comment.  

This stage is considering:  

  • DWP’s communication about the number of qualifying years of National Insurance contributions that are required for a full state pension 
  • DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling. 
  • whether any failings led to injustice, including the maladministration we identified at stage one of the investigation 

So we can conclude the investigation as efficiently as possible, we are adjusting our approach to the remainder of this investigation. 

We are going to begin considering what action we think DWP should take to remedy the apparent injustice. We will share our provisional views about remedy once we have considered any further evidence we receive about our provisional views for stage two.  

We will then go on to publish our findings about the issues we are considering at stage two and remedy at the same time. This adjustment will minimise complainants’ wait for our findings about remedy once we have considered any further evidence we receive. 

Recommendations we can't 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. 

A 2019 High Court decision underlined that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions. Nor can we recommend that anyone receive their State Pension any earlier than the law allows. To do so would amount to us recommending DWP reverse or try to reverse 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 is paid. 

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. 

You can see the recommendations we have made in previous cases in reports of our other investigations. 

More information 

Why are the stage two provisional views not on our website?  

By law we investigate in private. We have not yet reached any findings about the issues we are investigating at stage two. We cannot publish our thinking while the investigation is ongoing. 

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

Women born on or 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. Information is available about State Pension age and the eligibility criteria for a State Pension on the GOV.UK website.  

Why is stage two of the investigation taking so long? 

We have had thousands of pages of evidence to consider. We are taking the time needed to carefully review all the evidence and form a robust, fair and impartial view.  

When will the investigation finish? 

It is not possible to say how long it will take to reach a conclusion. How long an investigation takes varies depending on its complexity and the amount of evidence to review. 

Why are you only investigating six sample complainants? 

The six sample complaints reflect the range of issues complained about. We will ask DWP to apply any recommendations to everyone who has been similarly affected by failings we identify. 

The six sample complainants have agreed to the scope of our investigation. 

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 make recommendations, we will ask DWP to apply those recommendations to everyone who has been affected by any failings we identify. 

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

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