A HELENSBURGH woman who chairs the Argyll and the Isles WASPI campaign group says an ombudsman's ruling is of "critical" importance.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) ruled on Thursday that the Department for Work and Pensions had failed to adequately communicate changes to women's state pension age - and that those who have suffered should be paid back.

The 1995 Pensions Act changed the rules on state pension ages so that men and women would qualify at the same age.

But the national WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality] campaign says women born in the 1950s weren't properly informed of the changes - and that thousands of them had their retirement plans ruined as a result.

WASPI has been fighting for redress, on behalf of tens of thousands of women born between April 1950 and April 1960, since 2015.

Ann Greer, from Helensburgh, the co-founder and co-ordinator of the WASPI group in Argyll and the Isles, said: “I agree with the PHSO that women have been financially disempowered by DWP maladministration, so it is critical women receive compensation.

“Many 1950s-born women made decisions we may not have made, had we known earlier that our state pension age was to rise by up to six years.

“I was 58 when some of us travelled down to Westminster, to a huge Women Against State Pension Inequality protest, in 2016, and will be 66, so in receipt of my state pension, in a few days.

“A huge amount of energy and time, which could have been spent on other things, has been taken up on this campaign during the last eight years. Only compensation can help us now.”

The ombudsman has asked Parliament to intervene and “act swiftly” to make sure a compensation scheme is established.

The ombudsman also noted that so far, the DWP has not acknowledged its failings or put things right for those affected.

PHSO chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “The UK’s national ombudsman has made a finding of failings by DWP in this case and has ruled that the women affected are owed compensation.

“DWP has clearly indicated that it will refuse to comply. This is unacceptable. The department must do the right thing and it must be held to account for failure to do so.

“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.

“Parliament now needs to act swiftly, and make sure a compensation scheme is established. We think this will provide women with the quickest route to remedy.”

According to the PHSO's report, the DWP’s handling of the pension age changes meant women born in the 1950s missed out on opportunities to make informed decisions about their finances, losing their sense of personal autonomy and financial control.

In addition to paying compensation, the ombudsman confirmed that the DWP should acknowledge its failings and apologise for the affect it has had on complainants and others.

It said it has received a series of complaints relating to how the DWP has communicated a variety of state pension reforms, and concerns about communication of changes to the state pension age constitute only one area of complaint.

Following the publication of the PHSO's findings, Rishi Sunak was urged to “do the right thing” and set aside billions in compensation for women affected.