Waspi women face anxious three-month wait for compensation verdict

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WASPI woman says ‘I’ve paid in’ as she slams pension amount

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Around 3.8 million women born in the 1950s were hit by moves to bring the state pension age into line with men. They call themselves Waspi women, which stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice, and have waged a hard-fought campaign for years.

Waspi campaigners argued that they were not given sufficient warning of the change, which saw their retirement age jump from 60 to 65, and then to 66 in 2020.

Some did not realise until the last minute that they would have to work for five or six years longer, and suffered massive hardship as a result. 

Eighteen months ago, they were celebrating what they saw as a supportive ruling by the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman.

It said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should have written individual letters to affected women 28 months before it finally sent them out, which it called “maladministration”.

That raised hopes of compensation, but since then 1950s women have faced yet another nail-biting wait.

The Ombudsman completed the second part of its investigation a few days ago and repeated its view that the DWP was guilty of maladministration.

However, it also stated that this “did not lead to all the injustices claimed”, which sounds ominous.

Cruel rumours are flying around social media as people discuss what this means in practice. I’m not going to repeat them as I can’t confirm their veracity.

The Ombudsman is now considering the third and final stage, looking at what action it believes the DWP should take “to remedy the injustice found”.

Campaigners have refused to set a figure on how much compensation they would like to receive, although they claim 1950s women have lost as much as £50,000 by having to wait up to six years longer for their state pension.

Hundreds of thousands died before retirement age without receiving a penny in state pension.

Any verdict will be too late for them. 

I feel desperately for the women affected, many of whom I have interviewed and got to know personally.

They now face an anxious wait as they struggle to heat their homes and put food on the table in today’s arctic chill.

Some have been pinning their hopes on the Labour Party coming to their rescue. In fact, leader Sir Keir Starmer pledged his support for Waspi women in March, to the delight of campaigners.

They should be even more delighted with Starmer apparently on course to win the next election.

Former Labour Chancellor John McDonnell pledged £58billion in Waspi compensation at the 2019 election, a move that backfired as it confirmed suspicions that a Jeremy Corbyn Labour government would be spendthrift.

Starmer won’t go that far. My guess is he’d like the whole awkward issue to go away before then.

Waspi women have clung onto hopes of redress, against all the odds.

The DWP has played hardball throughout, saying the decision to lift the state pension age for women was made more than 25 years ago, and has been backed by the High Court and Court of Appeal, with the Supreme Court refusing permission to appeal.

The Ombudsman looks like the last throw of the Waspi dice. Waiting for its verdict must feel like slow torture for millions of women.

Leaks and rumours are only making the agony worse.

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