Sunak hints at help for Waspi women as he promises 'thoughtful response' to damning report

By John Mercury March 22, 2024

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hinted at help for Waspi women who were hit by changes to the state pension age.

It comes after a report said the changes were not communicated adequately and people should receive an apology and compensation, possibly totalling billions of pounds.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) stated thousands of women who were born in the 1950s might have been impacted by the Department for Work and Pension’s “failure to adequately inform them” about the increase in the age of entitlement.

The DWP’s handling of the changes meant some women lost opportunities to make informed decisions about their finances, said the PHSO, which recommended individual compensation should be awarded between £1,000 and £2,950.

But the government has yet to respond to the report or revealed whether they would act on calls for payouts.

Politics live: Sunak launches Tories’ local election campaign

Campaigners from the group Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) are calling on whoever wins the next general election to act swiftly on paying compensation.

Read more: What is a Waspi woman and what happened to them?

Asked about the report’s findings on Friday as he launched the Conservatives’ local election campaigns in Derbyshire, Mr Sunak said: “I know there will be a lot of interest in this matter and I completely get that.

“Hopefully people will appreciate we have only just received the report yesterday, it is very long and detailed, and the right thing for us to do is to go through it carefully and then come back with a considered and thoughtful response.”

But pushed on whether the government would make payments to the Waspi women, he said his “track record on these things is we do act”, pointing to the legislation to quash the convictions of sub-postmasters caught up in the Horizon IT scandal.

Rishi Sunak launches the Conservatives' local election campaign. Pic: PA
Image:
Rishi Sunak launches the Conservatives’ local election campaign. Pic: PA

The prime minister added: “I am determined to do everything to put that right, and when it comes to pensioners, I want everyone to have dignity in retirement.

“That’s why we have protected the triple lock and why the state pension is going up by as I said by £900 in a few weeks’ time.

“That speaks to my values and what the government will always do.”

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Sir John Major’s Conservative government introduced a law in 1995 to gradually adjust women’s state pension age from 60 to 65 to match it with men.

But many women claimed to have not received enough warning from the DWP of the changes, or not heard from the department at all.

In 2011, the then-coalition government decided to speed up the timescale of the adjustment by two years, leaving more women facing extra years before they could access their state pension.

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‘Critical’ pensions compensation is paid

The Waspi group has been campaigning for compensation since 2015 and secured the inquiry by the PHSO back in 2018.

Chair of Waspi, Angela Madden, said: “Rishi Sunak will be on a sticky wicket asking for Waspi women’s votes at these local elections – and at the coming general election – unless he heeds the clear instructions of the ombudsman that Waspi women should be compensated.

“MPs of all parties signed up to the case for £10,000 compensation each. The prime minister has the power to bring legislation before parliament which would deliver that, and that is what 1950s-born women now rightly expect.”

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