DWP accused of maladministration over women’s state pension communication

Reports Jon Yarker

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of maladministration over how it has communicated state pension changes to women.

This was one of the conclusions from a review conducted by the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman (PHO) in response to complaints that the DWP has failed to adequately communicate state pension changes since 1995.

From 1995 to 2004 the PHO found DWP’s communications to be of the expected standard.

However, since then the DWP has been accused of maladministration after failing to ‘get it right’ and learn from research in 2004 that recommended information should be ‘appropriately targeted’.

The PHO report read: “DWP failed to take adequate account of the need for targeted and individually tailored information or of how likely it was doing the same thing would achieve different results.

“Despite having identified there was more it could do, it failed to provide the public with as full information as possible.

“DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about next steps in August 2005 and failed to use feedback to improve service design and delivery. It therefore failed at this point to ‘get it right’ and ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was maladministration.”

These failings were exacerbated when DWP failed to write directly to affected women and explain to them the changes to their state pension age, according to PHO. The Ombudsman concluded that affected women should have had at least 28 months’ more individual notice of the changes.

The PHO added the next stage of its investigation, which is ongoing, will consider the impact of any injustice caused on retirement plans.

AJ Bell senior analyst Tom Selby said these findings were likely to attract further criticism from WASPI campaigners. “It was reasonable for these women to expect the government to provide as much information as possible to communicate changes which would have such a profound impact on their retirement plans.

“What we still don’t know is what, if any, compensation will be provided to women as a result of this finding. The Ombudsman now plans to look at the impact this injustice had, which will undoubtedly lead to more pressure for a resolution.

“Given the parlous state of UK finances, calls in some quarters to compensate women affected in full – which could amount to six years of state pension payments – are likely to fall on deaf ears.”