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Response to PHSO report

Last week the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) published their findings into the UK Government's appalling treatment of the WASPI women impacted by state pension age changes.

As with other inquiries the Ombudsman has not challenged or criticised the decision to increase the state pension age for women so that women and men get their pension at the same age. They have however been extremely critical of the failures to make sure everyone

affected by these changes was given as much notice as possible so that they would have time to plan for their retirement. Many of you who have contacted me have highlighted the hugely detrimental impact that this has had on your lives.

The full report is 100 pages long but there’s a summary of findings near the start. It has long seemed to me that the Department for Work and Pensions was doing everything it could to drag out this affair as long as possible. It still seems determined to deny any wrong doing. The Ombudsman’s report confirms several ways in which the DWP was guilty of maladministration and the Ombudsman has recommended that compensation should be paid. The Ombudsman doesn’t have the power to order the DWP to pay compensation or to accept any other recommendations. The Ombudsman has taken the extraordinary step of effectively saying they have no confidence that DWP would pay any attention to their recommendations. They have therefore decided that the quickest way to get action is to bring this matter immediately to Parliament’s attention. They have asked that Parliament intervene to agree a mechanism for remedy which the Ombudsman believes is in the complainants’ best interests and the quickest route to remedy.

It is a shocking indictment on the DWP’s conduct over a number of years that the Ombudsman feels compelled to act in this way. The UK Government’s initial response on 25 April suggests that they have no intention of accepting the Ombudsman’s findings.

It is also extremely concerning that the Official Opposition, who may well be the government in a few months’ time, are now refusing to say whether an incoming Labour government would be any better. In their 2019 election manifesto Labour promised to compensate the WASPI women. It now looks unlikely that they will do this if they win the next election.

I believe that the government through the DWP must urgently deliver a fair and fast compensation scheme for those women affected. As a first step they should unreservedly accept the findings and recommendations of the Ombudsman’s report.

My SNP colleague Alan Brown MP currently has a Private Member’s Bill before Parliament which would require the UK Government to publish proposals for a compensation scheme for women born in the 1950s impacted by increases in the State Pension age. Private Member’s Bills usually have little chance of becoming law but the Government could commit to making time for Alan’s Bill to be debated and voted on.

Please be assured I and my SNP colleagues are clear on this issue and will continue to advocate for all of those who have been impacted and hold the UK Government to account on this matter, as we have done over the many years since this issue first came to light.

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