Fight is not over for WASPI women, says Jamie Stone as ruling is declared 'a major victory'
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North MP Jamie Stone has welcomed a breakthrough for millions of women seeking justice over pensions and emphasised that "the fight is not over".
Some 3.8 million women born in the 1950s have been affected by changes to their state pension age, leading to the formation in 2015 of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign. The group says "1950s women have been singled out for unfair and unequal treatment because of the way the increases to our state pension age have been brought in".
This week the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) announced it had found failings in the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) communicated the changes and would look at what action should be taken.
Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: “The ombudsman’s ruling is a real victory for WASPI campaigners and their tireless fight for fairness. For the 3.8 million women born in the 1950s it is one step closer to being compensated for their appalling treatment.
“Since I became an MP in 2017, women from Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross have been helping me to bring to the UK government's attention the disgraceful situation they were plunged into.
"The fight is not over and I believe this first major victory sets the campaigners in good stead for very positive future outcomes."
Mr Stone added: “I would implore anyone in this age bracket to get in touch with me so I can keep them updated on the progress of the investigation and continue to fight their corner.
“I believe that the government has a duty to compensate the women who have lost out through no fault of their own. The Liberal Democrats will endorse any further decisions by the ombudsman on compensation.”
The 1995 Pensions Act changed the law so that women would no longer be able to claim their state pension at 60.
The ombudsman received "a significant number of complaints" about the way this was communicated by DWP, with many women saying they were not aware of the changes and had experienced significant financial loss and emotional distress as a result.
PHSO found that from 2005 onwards there were failings in the action taken by DWP to communicate the state pension age.
The investigation report has been laid before parliament.
PHSO chief executive officer Amanda Amroliwala said: "After a detailed investigation, we have found that DWP failed to act quickly enough once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware of changes to their state pension age. It should have written to the women affected at least 28 months earlier than it did.
"We will now consider the impact of these failings, and what action should be taken to address them."
WASPI women say they are suffering because they weren’t told by the government that their state pension age would be increasing and now have no time to put in place alternative financial arrangements to see them through to the new state retirement age, which in some cases is 66.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.
“In a move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the state pension age the same for men and women.”