DWP: Errors with systems and complaints handling

13 December 2022

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the National Health Service (NHS) in England, UK government departments and other public organisations. The PHSO made recent discoveries of ‘maladministration’ in the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) handled complaints about, and communicated changes, to women’s state pension age.

The PHSO is at the third and final stage of the investigation and are to consider what action to take.

The PHSO has written:

“We have shared our provisional views about stage three with complainants, their MPs, and DWP. They now have an opportunity to provide comments about stage three.”

The ombudsman will publish the report of findings once any further evidence is deemed.

However, a DWP spokesperson said:

“The government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women. 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.”

Subsequently, it has been reported that the second largest error in state pension payments has yet to be fixed and government intervention is called for. Inaccuracies in the home responsibilities protection (HRP) system, which was developed in 1978 to protect parents (mainly mothers) who spent time at home with children, have left individuals with less than they are entitled to from their state pension. This issue was formed by periods of inaccurate recording of HRP on National Insurance (NI) records and DWP poorly communicating how many NI qualifying years women need for a full state pension age.

The ombudsman said:

“They [women] told us that DWP’s and the Independent Case Examiner’s (ICE) handling of their complaints about these issues had a negative effect on their emotional well-being.  We have received a significant number of similar complaints since we first proposed to investigate. Our review of the complaints shows that they relate to the same key issues. For that reason, we are not accepting any new complaints about these issues at present.” 

Six samples of complaints with a range of issues, are being investigated by the ombudsman.

Employers should be aware of the above inaccuracies and how they may apply to their employees. You can read more on the topic of state pension on the GOV.UK site.


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