WASPI women could only get a few hundred or thousand pounds in compensation for years of lost pension even if the parliamentary watchdog rules against the Government.
Millions of women born in the 1950s, including around 35,000 in Gloucestershire, are pinning their hopes on the outcome of a court of appeal case by the BackTo60 group.
But if they don’t win “full restitution” through the courts they will have to fall back on complaints to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman which is the final step in the complaints process.
The Ombudsman, Rob Behrens, CBE, is currently investigating six sample cases into complaints that woman born in the 1950s were not told their state pension age would rise up to 66 and could therefore not make financial plans.
Last year the Ombudsman paid out an average of just over £2,100 to hundreds of people who successfully won their cases, far short of the tens of thousands of pounds the WASPI women say they have lost out on.
And in a separate case last year two complainants who successfully argued that the Department of Work and Pensions had not notified them of different changes to the state pension system were only awarded an apology and compensation of £500 and £750 even though the Ombudsman agreed with them they had been the victim of an injustice.
In the year 2019-20,the Ombudsman recommended 297 payments totalling £626,288.53.
Most, £568,032.693, was awarded to those who suffered because of failures by NHS organisations.
Those failed by UK Government departments and other UK public organisations were paid just £58,255.84.
How is compensation awarded?
Compensation is awarded on a six point sliding scale which is based on the severity and impact of any injustice and ranges from nothing to “over £10,000 for the worse cases.
According to the first analysis of cases, one of the largest payments last year was £15,000 compensation for NHS failings over the death of a baby.
Another mother was awarded over £12,000 because the Child Support Agency failed to collect unpaid maintenance from a father when he sold his house and Cafcass was ordered to pay £6,000 for a longstanding dispute over decisions made about a child’s care.
But most payments are much lower and the DVLA was only told to say sorry and make payments of £200 and £250 for taking too long to make a decision about issuing two people with a driving licence after doctors said they should be reinstated following periods of ill health.
Figures show that during a three year period between 2013 and 2017 the Ombudsman only made four awards of £1,000 and none over this amount.
Although the Ombudsman is there to hold public organisations to account and reports to parliament through the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), it appears to be more about lessons learned and improving the complaints procedure than financial compensation.
Mr Behrans has already told WASPI women: “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 2019 High Court decision has made clear that we are not able to recommend DWP reimburse ‘lost’ pensions. We also cannot recommend that anyone receive their state pension any earlier than the law allows. To do so would reverse or try to reverse primary legislation.”
What do Women Against State Pension Injustice say?
But Hilary Simpson of Women Against State Pension Injustice in Cheltenham said: “”If the Ombudsman finds that there has been maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions, we would expect the Government to do the decent thing, admit its past failings, and take immediate steps to compensate all 1950s women for the losses they have suffered – both those who are already receiving their state pension and those who are still waiting.
“We would also hope that the DWP would improve its communications to ensure that no future generations are left in ignorance about their state pension entitlement.”
In his forward to the annual report the Ombudsman says: “We are here to achieve justice for those who have been failed. When we uphold a complaint, people have not just beenfailed by a public service, but also by failings in the complaints system.”
“The stress this puts on people seeking answers cannot be underestimated.”
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