WASPI campaigners call for 'speedy' State Pension compensation for millions of women

Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) have been campaigning for compensation for almost a decade
Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) have been campaigning for compensation for almost a decade -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Women affected by the way State Pension hikes were communicated should receive "speedy" compensation, a committee of MPs has heard from WASPI campaigners.

The Work and Pensions Committee hearing took place this week following a report published in March by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), which found that women born between April 1950 and April 1960 are "owed" money because increases in the State Pension age, from 60 to 66, were not properly communicated. The report followed a five-year investigation into alleged failures at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and came nearly a decade after the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign group - or WASPI for short - launched a campaign for compensation.

WASPI campaign director Jane Cowley told the committee: "In terms of things we'd like to see in a compensation scheme… we'd like it to be speedy because of the delays that have already gone on, we want... something that can be set up within weeks rather than years." She added: "It needs to be very simple, very clear, easy to operate."

Ms Cowley said a compensation scheme must be sensitive to the different amounts of notice women should have had about their pension start date changes, and what they were actually given. The ombudsman report found that some women were notified of the change to their pension age less than a year before they had been expecting to retire at 60, which left them without enough time to adjust their savings plans.

WASPI chairwoman Angela Madden also told the committee: "Women who were divorced had their divorce settlements based on… a pension age of 60. That means they were awarded less money in a divorce settlement, now that to me is clear financial loss. And there are other cases. And we think it would be fair to allow for that to be proven as part of a redress system."

The ombudsman's report suggested that compensation at level four, ranging between £1,000 and £2,950, could be appropriate for each of those affected. However, while Ms Madden said the acknowledgement that there should be compensation was a "big tick" for WASPI campaigners, she described the suggested level as "on the low side".

Speaking in the House of Commons in March, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said there will be a full and proper consideration of the ombudsman's report. Questioned about the exact date women can expect confirmation on the amount of compensation they will receive, the minister told Good Morning Britain last month that DWP would act "as quickly as we can", but added that "proper time is needed to consider a very complex report".

Rebecca Hilsenrath, interim ombudsman at the PHSO, told the Work and Pensions Committee during a later session on Tuesday: "I do recognise the impacts on so many individuals, and I recognise that the WASPI women would have liked a higher level of compensation.”

However, she stood by the original recommendation, adding: "We feel that the level four general description of what the impact looked like for individual women was right. And we also looked at the case examples cited both in relation to level four and also to the higher levels. And we felt that those indicated to us quite clearly that they were level four cases."

Of the ombudsman's powers, she explained: "We're not a tribunal or a court and we're not going to award the kind of very high levels of compensation that you see in negligence cases. So it's about looking at the context that we operate in."