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WASPI outrage at DWP’s refusal to meet

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A PARLIAMENTARY ANSWER from Pensions Minister Guy Opperman has left campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) outraged at the government’s “astonishing arrogance”.

Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when her Department last held a meeting with a representative of the WASPI campaign, and when they next intend to do so.

Guy Opperman responded saying that a departmental Minister met with representatives of WASPI six years ago on 29 June 2016 and that there are no plans to meet with representatives of the group in future.  

The WASPI campaign has been trying to meet Opperman again ever since the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) confirmed last year that 1950s-born women were victims of maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions. 

The group is campaigning for ‘fast, fair compensation’ for those women affected by the DWP’s failure to tell women about changes to State Pension Age in good time.

The changes to women’s pensions, which were legislated for in 1995, were not communicated through targeted letters to most of those affected until 2012, leading the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to find that “The opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.” 

Recent research commissioned by WASPI found that by the end of this year 220,000 women born in the 1950s will have died awaiting compensation.  Over the course of the two-year COVID pandemic, one in every ten women who died was born in the 1950s, and had lost both their state pension income and the opportunity to make alternative retirement plans. 

Despite the Ombudsman’s findings and the rapid death rate of those affected, the DWP is refusing requests from MPs to meet with campaigners to discuss a one-off compensation payment.

WASPI chair and finance director Angela Madden said: “We are grateful for MPs such as Rupa Huq’s continued support for the WASPI campaign.

“Our members understandably conclude that the Government is just choosing to turn a blind eye and prevaricate on the issue, when they could help now. 

“The Ombudsman has been clear that the Department could be pro-active on compensation.  All we are asking is that Ministers meet with us to discuss a fair, fast compensation package now before more women die waiting for justice.  Their refusal to do so is astonishingly arrogant.”

Rupa Huq MP added: “This is a shocking response from the DWP who have already been found guilty by the Ombudsman of maladministration. The Department knows there is a wrong that must be righted here, but seems to be hoping campaigners will simply go away.  We won’t.  We intend to keep campaigning for the justice WASPI women deserve.”

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