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What is WASPI and who is affected?

What is WASPI and who is affected?

Written by Retirement Line

Campaigners are fighting for compensation for women who they say were not properly informed about changes to the State Pension age. ‘WASPI’ campaigners argue that a compensation scheme must be established to support those affected. 

Formed in 2015 after connecting through Facebook, the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign advocates for women born in the 1950s to be compensated over the government's failure to tell them, or provide adequate notice, about the changes in the State Pension age to bring it in line with men.

The WASPI website states that whilst it agrees with equalisation, it does not agree with “the unfair way the changes were implemented”.

With the campaign running for some years now, many women have died without getting the justice the group has been fighting for. An estimated 270,000 women affected by the changes are said to have passed away since the campaign started.

How were women born in the 1950s affected by a change to the State Pension age? 

The key issues for the WASPI campaign surround these legislative changes:

  • Pensions Act 1995. To equalise the State Pension age for men and women, the government announced it would gradually raise it for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020.

  • Pensions Act 2011. The government accelerated the timetable set out in the 1995 Act, so that women’s State Pension age would reach 65 by November 2018 and then 66 by October 2020, bringing the schedule forward by several years.

WASPI say that 3.8 million women were “hit particularly hard” when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) raised the State Pension age for women but failed to properly communicate with them.

In particular, around 300,000 women were about to turn 60 when they found they had to wait an extra 18 months until they reached the new State Pension age. These women were born between December 1953 and October 1954.

The WASPI campaign argues that the government did not give women the appropriate amount of time to prepare themselves financially or make alternative arrangements. 

The group says that a large percentage of women affected were only written to within one year (i.e. when they were 59) of their expected State Pension Age of 60. It also argues that some women were given just one year’s notice of up to a six-year increase to their SPA, and some received no communication at all.

Jane Cowley, Campaign Manager of WASPI, provided one  example during their meeting on 7 May with the Works and Pensions Committee. 

She said that some women gave up working as they thought they only had a couple of years to go until they would receive their State Pension. Only after doing so, they learned of the change to their State Pension age but then found it difficult to return to work.

Ombudsman report finds maladministration

On 21 March a Women’s State Pension Age report was released by the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman (PHSO), which investigates complaints about government departments. 

The PHSO report collates the findings of its five-year investigation into the DWP’s conduct over how it handled communications about the State Pension age changes. 

A key message from the report is that women complained that the State Pension age changes made by the Department of Work and Pensions were not communicated well enough. This caused significant financial hardship for many women, and meant they lost opportunities to make informed decisions about their later life finances.

The report said “research showed too many people did not understand their own situations and how the new State Pension affected them personally”. It also found that complaints weren't adequately investigated and that the DWP was guilty of ‘maladministration’.

Will WASPI get the compensation they seek?

The report by the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman suggests Level 4 payments are made of between £1,000 and £2,950 to women affected. This would cost the government somewhere between £3.5 billion and £10.5 billion, with the money coming from public funds. 

However, the PHSO cannot enforce compensation. The agreement must come from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Although the PHSO’s support for compensation is positive news for WASPI women, the recommendation still falls short of the sliding scale of compensation they have asked for. According to the BBC, campaigners hoped to see the most affected receive over £10,000, which would cost the government £36 billion.

According to the PHSO website, to date the Department for Work and Pensions has neither acknowledged its failings, nor offered any apology or explanation for its failings. It has also indicated that it will not compensate women affected by its failure.

PHSO Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath, said: “Complainants should not have to wait and see whether DWP will take action to rectify its failings. Given the significant concerns we have that it will fail to act on our findings and given the need to make things right for the affected women as soon as possible, we have proactively asked Parliament to intervene and hold the Department to account.”

Following the report, Parliament held a crucial debate on 16 May centred on WASPI compensation. During this debate, MPs including Patricia Gibson called for the delivery of prompt compensation. 

However, Rishi Sunak’s announcement then came of a General Election to be held on 4 July. It means frustrated WASPI campaigners face more waiting and delays as the dissolution of Parliament took place on 30 May ahead of the election. They now have to wait for the next government to make a decision.

Speaking this month about the lack of commitment to a compensation package being outlined by the political party leaders in their 2024 manifestos, Angela Madden, Chair of WASPI, said:

“Just as money has rightly been found for the victims of the Post Office and infected blood scandals, the awful position 1950s women have been put in must be recognised and compensation paid.”

How to claim WASPI compensation 

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) suggested in its report that the level of WASPI compensation should be between £1,000 and £2,950 each. However, compensation has not yet been confirmed and there have been delays to getting a decision following the announcement of a General Election this summer. 

As the Department for Work and Pensions continue to consider the suggestions made by the PHSO, the campaign group continues to push for WASPI compensation to be agreed. 

If and when the DWP finalises the level of compensation, it will likely provide a schedule for when the payments will be made, together with its eligibility criteria. It may also publish details of how to claim WASPI compensation online, although compensation may instead be paid automatically. There is nowhere that you currently need to register or sign up.

If you wish to do so, you can join the WASPI campaign.

Frequently asked questions

What does Martin Lewis say about WASPI?

On 21 February 2023, when speaking on his television show about the issues being campaigned about by WASPI, Martin Lewis said:

"The WASPI campaign has been going on a long time, it’s something I’ve supported. It all happened because in 1995 the pension age was extended and it wasn't communicated and then it was extended again and it wasn't communicated.There's been a court case that was lost. There's been a parliamentary ombudsman ruling won but we don't know the result."

On 8 February 2023 Martin Lewis, a WASPI supporter, turned up to a rally at Parliament Square to speak to the thousands of women protesting there. 

In a video later posted to his Twitter/X page, the finance expert says: 

“It’s brilliant that you’re out here. You’ve got to keep up the fight… No matter how hard you protest, this is going to be a very, very tough fight, so get everybody you know to write to their MPs. Keep up the hard work and keep the pressure on!”

Most recently, following the report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, a message came from Martin Lewis about WASPI women on Twitter/X on 21 March 2024:

"NEWS: Ombudsman has just published report saying 1,000s women were affected by DWP failure to properly inform them of the state pension and has recommended that parliament set up a compensation scheme."

How do I check my State Pension age?

Currently the State Pension age is 66 for men and women, but it will soon be increasing  again. For those born on or after 5 April 1960 it will gradually rise to 67. Then it is expected to rise to 68 for those born on or after 5 April 1977 - but this could be brought forward to affect people born before 1977.

The age at which you are eligible for payments depends on when you were born, and how many qualifying years of National Insurance that you have on your record.

  • If you reached State pension age before April 2016 then you’ll get the old basic State Pension. For the current 2024/25 tax year this is worth £169.50 a week.

  • If you reached State Pension age after April 2016 then you’ll get the new State Pension, now worth £221.20 a week.

You need to have ten least ten years of NI contributions or credits to get anything, and a maximum of 35 years to get the full State Pension. For instance, if you don’t work but receive Child Benefit for a child under 12, you will receive National Insurance credits that count towards your State Pension.

There are online calculators which you can use to check how much State Pension you can expect, together with the earliest date that you can get it.

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