THE coordinator of West Dunbartonshire’s Women Against State Pension Injustice (WASPI) campaigners has welcomed a landmark decision by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

More than 350,000 women across Scotland have been affected by the rise to the State Pension Age, with women born in the 1950s seeing their state pension age rise with little or no notice. They have lost up to six years of retirement and tens of thousands of pounds in pension payments.

Campaigners from local WASPI groups have lobbied on the issue since 2014, and started an official complaints process with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2016.

However, on in September 2020, judges at the High Court in London told the protesting group that introducing the same state pensions age for men and women (from 60 to 66) did not amount unlawful discrimination.

The matter was then referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, an impartial group who make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved.

The Ombudsman found that between 1995 and 2004, DWP’s communication of changes to state pension age reflected the standards it was expected to meet.

But in 2005, DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about targeting information to the women affected by these changes, confirming that it 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, which has also been considered maladministration. 

The Ombudsman will now move on to stage two of their investigation and consider whether the failings they identified led to an injustice for the complainants.

If found that there was an injustice that has not already been remedied, then the Ombudsman will proceed to the third stage and make further recommendations.

West Dunbartonshire WASPI coordinator Liz Daly told the Reporter: “I am happy with the initial findings and my WASPI colleagues are optimistic.

“We had a UK wide Zoom meeting of coordinators on Tuesday evening and we are urging MPs across all parties to work together to find a fast and fair compensation package for the women who were adversely affected by the sudden and unannounced changes to our retirement age.

“On a personal level, I retired from my post as principal early education and childcare officer at the end of June, after working for 50 years. However, I will not be eligible to collect my state pension until this December, when I turn 66.

“Our cohort have been some of the most vulnerable age group to Covid, yet many of us are frontline keyworkers.

“Too many women died before receiving a penny they had paid in.

“It’s a national disgrace.”

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said: "After years of being ignored and dismissed by Westminster, this ruling is a vindication for all the WASPI women in their tireless campaign for justice.

"More than 350,000 women in West Dunbartonshire and across Scotland are being robbed of their state pensions by the UK government – pensions that they have worked hard for all of their lives.

"The Ombudsman's investigation clearly shows that the DWP failed to adequately inform 1950s-born women that their state pensions age would be increasing - leading to financial hardship for many. 

"This ruling is an important step forward, but it's crucial now that the UK government listens to the Ombudsman's findings and acts on the recommendations once published in due course.  

"The fight goes on and my SNP colleagues and I will continue to stand with Scotland's WASPI women till they secure the fair compensation they deserve."  

A DWP spokesperson said: “Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.

“In a move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the State Pension age the same for men and women.”

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