Waspi women pledge to fight on

Waspi women appeared in Parliament this week to talk about the next steps after the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report in March.

Older lady sits in armchair looking pensive

 

Waspi women who say they were not informed about the equalisation of the state pension age claim an apology without fair compensation for maladministration is not an apology at all, a parliamentary meeting heard this week.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report [PSHO] into the Waspi women, published in March, showed maladministration on the part of the Government and called on the Department for Work and Pensions to issue an apology and to offer redress. Rebecca Long-Bailey, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women, told a meeting of the Work and Pensions Committee this week that the mechanism for redress has to be determined by Parliament, but the level suggested by the Ombudsman was low.

Representatives of the Waspi campaign said they had spent seven years dealing with the DWP’s denial of maladministration and that over 270,000 women have died since the Waspi campaign was established in 2015. The state pension age was equalised in 2018.

Angela Madden, Chair of the Waspi campaign, said the DWP had not accepted they had done anything wrong and had instead ‘hidden behind the ombudsman’s report’. She did not think that they would make the right decision about compensation. Jane Crowley, Campaign Director of the Waspi campaign, added that she thought it unlikely that the Government would accept the findings of the ombudsman’s report. “They have had the draft report for some time. It does seem like they are playing for time and looking to kick it into the long grass,” she said. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Commons this week that the Government needs time to consider the report.

There was a long discussion about direct and indirect compensation and how to determine the level of compensation that is just. Crowley said “women expect their compensation to match the injustice they have suffered”.

She added that if the Government does not respond to the PSHO’s report, people will lose faith in the Government’s ability to hold itself to account when something is wrong and said that it would beg the question of what the point is of having an ombudsman.

Poll over the weekend of the general public 68% of respondents said the Government should act now on this issue. If the Government does not act, Waspi will not go away, said Crowley. “We will not go away while we have one woman dying every 13 minutes without justice,” she said.

Long-Bailey said the ombudsman’s report only dealt with maladministration in relation to notice about the change to the pension age. It didn’t, she said, deal with the issue of discrimination in relation to the change – the idea that women do not face a level playing field in relation to their pension due to the impact on their pension of caring responsibilities. She would like to see this looked at by Parliament.



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