How the Ombudsman swindled the pensioners one more time.
As Ombudsman watchers since 2013 we knew that things were unlikely to turn out well when Rob Behrens (Mr B) the Parliamentary Ombudsman took over the Waspi complaints in 2017. Our warnings fell on deaf ears as the Waspi women rejoiced in the fact that an independent and impartial body was going to resolve their complaints against the DWP regarding a failure to inform the increase in pension age for women born in the 1950’s and beyond.
No private pension scheme could arbitrarily change the payout date for those already signed up to the contract but the government can, because the government are unaccountable and the Ombudsman is their unaccountable clean-up guy. You only have to look at Mr B’s record. In 2021/22 there were 1,226 complaints to the Ombudsman with regard to DWP. 16 were accepted for detailed investigation, 2 received a full uphold and 7 a partial uphold. Just 0.7% of all submitted complaints received any kind of uphold. The rest just got buried along the way.
The odds were always against the Waspi women but they lived in hope as months turned to years. Then in July 2021 there was much to celebrate when the Ombudsman found that the DWP had acted with maladministration and published their first stage report. With renewed hope the women waited for the resolution report, which is due to be released in March 2023, more than five years after the original acceptance of the complaints.
Just what has the Ombudsman been doing all this time?
Well time is a weapon in itself. The waiting wears you down, lowers your resolve and in some cases kills you off. Problem solved.
Thanks to David Hencke and his blog Westminster Confidential the ‘secret’ update report has found its way into the public domain. Secrecy is another weapon used against the helpless complainant. No one can discuss the rationale of the report until it is made final, but by then it is often too late. In order to secure a review of a final report the complainant must demonstrate flawed reasoning or produce new evidence. Even if you are able to prove that the reasoning is flawed, as it so ofter is, the odds are still against you with this clause from PHSO review guidance.
45.Where the service user demonstrates our rationale was flawed, but the case owner considers that our overall decision reached was correct, we do not need to conduct a fresh primary investigation. The case owner should explain this to the service user.
Getting a final report overturned is an herculean task when the author of the report can simply determine that the decision was correct and who among the tired and defeated Waspi women is going to try?
So just how did Mr B pull this sting on the multitude of Waspi women?
PHSO reports are deliberately verbose, with repetitions, deviations and contradictions. Aimed to confuse, they are packed to the margins with factual debris. If you have read everything released to date, you will have read approximately 100 pages. So in case you missed it, as most of the media appear to have done, the catch all is the way the first investigation managed to reduce approximately 15 years of DWP maladministration to just 28 months. A neat trick, but then that is their area of expertise.
So let’s look at the facts as recorded in the first investigation report.
The law changed in 1995, equalising pension age for both men and women at 65 years. The bill included an intention to provide a long lead-in so that women could make adjustments.
26. The change was to be phased in over a 10-year period between 2010 and 2020. The long lead-in period was to allow people sufficient time to plan ahead.
27. The White Paper stated:
‘In developing its proposals for implementing the change the Government has paid particular attention to the need to give people enough time to plan ahead and to phase the change in gradually.’
Had 50’s women been effectively notified in 1995, there would have been a 15 year lead-in time, but women were not individually notified by DWP until 2009 (or later due to cohort batch arrangements) causing many to fall into financial hardship just as they were expecting retirement.
The stage one report found that from 1995 DWP ran a number of generalised campaigns which encouraged individuals to actively seek information about how changes to pension rules would affect them. It has been acknowledged that these campaigns were not specifically targeted at changes to pension age, which affected only women.
78. Pensions education campaigns focused on encouraging individuals to understand their pension entitlement and plan their retirement. DWP has said these campaigns included material relating to women’s State Pension age specifically targeted at women. However, a relatively small proportion of the campaign material we have seen refers to State Pension age:
A plan to specifically target the changes to women’s state pension age through a media campaign were scuppered by the government.
79. The need for an advertising campaign to tell women about the changes to State Pension age was considered in early 1997. The response to a ministerial submission in February 1997 said ‘Ministers do not see a pressing need at this stage to run such a campaign but would be prepared to re-consider at a later date.’
Two years down the line from the 1995 Act the government fail to inform all those affected with a targeted tv campaign. Is this mere oversight, incompetence or a deliberate attempt to keep the lid on things until it was too late for the women to take action? Can you imagine the impact as millions of women instantaneously discover they are to be robbed of five years pension as they tune into their favourite soaps? The time to take opposing action would have been then, with street campaigns similar to the ones currently on-going in France where there is a proposal to raise the pension age from 62 to 64. Millions have taken to the streets in the hope of reversing this proposal. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-64309155
Unfortunately, here in the UK, our horse had already bolted by the time protest groups formed.
It is clear from the stage one report that following the 1995 act the DWP were ineffective at communicating the changes to women’s pension age through generalised campaigns. In particular the DWP did not communicate how the changes would affect the individual and this statement confirms that DWP expected women to be proactive in finding out.
115. Unpublished DWP research from 2007 found 85% of women aged 48 to 59 knew State Pension age was going to be equalised, but many women did not know when it would happen. The research also found that 50% of women whose State Pension age had risen to between 60 and 65, and 36% of women whose State Pension age had risen to 65, still thought that it was 60. DWP told us that if people are aware of the changes, they can find out their own State Pension age.
The DWP, no doubt restrained by the heavy hand of government, had repeatedly stopped short of alerting women to how they would be affected by the 1995 Act. The Ombudsman confirms that the information provided at this time was too generalised to be effective.
130. Where State Pension age changes were mentioned, generalised messages that State Pension age was ‘being equalised’ from 6 April 2010 and would increase ‘from 2010 to 2020’ or ‘by 2020’ would not necessarily have alerted women that they could be personally affected.
So how does this lengthy delay get reduced to just 28 months maladministration?
Despite the failure to inform at least 50% of affected women since 1995, the Ombudsman selects the date of 2006 to calculate the start of the maladministration.
154. The 2006 Civil Service Code required DWP to deal with the public and their affairs promptly. The public’s need for time to adjust their retirement plans was set out in the 1993 White Paper and the need for significant pre-warning of changes in State Pension age had been highlighted again by the Pensions Commission in 2005. The 2006 research showed a significant proportion of time had already been lost, given the changes were due to take effect from 2010.
The Ombudsman decided that by December 2006 DWP, equipped with the 2006 research showing that efforts to inform women had failed, needed to move to an individualised approach. This arbitrary date selection ignores the fact that, as recorded in the report (sections 94 to 101) DWP had been given similar research findings in 2000/2001, 2002, 2003/4 and 2005. Any of these dates could have been selected, but they would have increased the time span of the maladministration.
155. DWP failed to act promptly on its 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women, or to give due weight to how much time had already been lost for women who remained unaware of the changes in the 11 years since the 1995 Pensions Act. It appears to have made no progress in developing its proposals between November 2006 and December 2007, despite the November 2006 memo saying an approach for direct mailing would be shared with Ministers before Christmas. We take that to mean Christmas 2006. We have seen no evidence a ministerial submission was made until December 2007.
156. DWP failed again to ‘get it right’. It did not act promptly as required by the Civil Service Code and did not give due weight to how much time had already been lost. And it failed again in its responsibility to ‘seek continuous improvement’ in response to the 2006 research. That was also maladministration.
When the mail shot programme started in April 2009 it only targeted women in transition, giving them as little at one year’s notice. Those who were required to wait a full five years were still in the dark. Yet this date is considered to be the end of the maladministration period because individual communications had begun.
112. The schedule proposed in the paper gives women increasing periods of notice depending on when they turn 60. For example, women whose State Pension age increased by between one and 12 months would receive one years’ notice. Women whose State Pension age increased by between 52 and 60 months would receive three years’ notice. The document says direct mail was considered the best way to try to ensure information about the increase reached as many women in the transitional group as possible and was the only sensible option left to increase awareness.
The Ombudsman confirms that DWP had a duty under the Civil Service Code 2006 to act promptly and it failed to do so. Using the Civil Service Code of 2006 appears to mark a change in policy, allowing the Ombudsman to determine maladministration from this time. But their report confirms that DWP had a duty from 1995 to ‘get it right’ provide clear information in a timely manner and seek continuous improvement, by reference to the DWP Policy Statement on public information, quoted earlier in the report.
50. The DWP Policy Statement is quoted in our ‘Trusting in the pensions promise’ report (2006). It describes the expected quality standard for information provided by DWP. It goes on to describe DWP’s duty to give information to the public.
51. The DWP Policy Statement states that all information provided by DWP should be ‘appropriate, relevant, correct, up-to-date, clear, concise and to the point, helpful and targeted’. For the purpose of this investigation, we understand ‘targeted’ to mean that information about changes to State Pension age should have been directed to, and tailored for, the people who needed it.
53. We consider that the DWP Policy Statement applies throughout the period we are looking at. The language used, particularly the statement including that it ‘is widely accepted’ that DWP ‘has a duty’ indicates that this was not a newly introduced position, and that the duty pre-dated the DWP Policy Statement. The fact that DWP had already been providing information (for example, by publishing leaflets about benefits) for some time before the DWP Policy Statement was issued further illustrates this point. We consider the statement to be consistent with the Principles of Good Administration.
The Ombudsman’s report confirms that since 1995 ‘time had been wasted’, that the DWP had a responsibility under their own policy statement to provide ‘targeted’ information in keeping with the Principles of Good Administration. And that at the start of the mail shot in April 2009, when only those women in transition were contacted, at least 50% did not know that the reforms were due to start just one year later in 2010. DWP had failed to give the required long lead-in time as laid down by the 1995 Act. Yet, with a logic only the Ombudsman can comprehend the conclusion in the first report is as follows.
2. We find that between 1995 and 2004, DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age reflected the standards we would expect it to meet. Accurate information about changes to State Pension age was publicly available in leaflets, through DWP’s pensions education campaigns, through DWP’s agencies and on its website. That reflected those applicable standards.
With a flick of the wrist the Ombudsman removes ten years of damaging delay. No wonder this report was published in stages, which is highly unusual for an Ombudsman report. The determination that DWP were guilty of just 28 months maladministration is now set in stone and will be crucial to the next part of the investigation where the Ombudsman determines both the harm and the remedy. What could women have done differently if they had been informed 28 months earlier, is the question used to determine the severity of harm. Well, given that pension plans are long term endeavours, not very much. This allows PHSO to conclude that the harm would have happened in any event, regardless of the maladministration. No uphold, a small payment for distress. Case closed.
Alistair Carmichael asked this question in parliament:
‘To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of the women born in the 1950s affected by the increase in state pension age have died before reaching their state pension age since 31 December 2015.’
The answer (6/2/23) won’t surprise you:
He also asked:
‘To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will make a comparative assessment of the number and proportion of women affected by the increase in state pension age for women born in the 1950s who died before receiving their state pension (a) between1948 and 31 December 2015 and (b) since 31 December 2015; and whether there are statistically significant differences in those mortality rates.’
Again, no surprises!
very interesting read Della thanks for claryfying in such a concise article. Now im sure the system is far from independant
PHSO and those promoting it should be challenged more widely. This thread shows how profoundly unjust it is.
I note this tweet. Perhaps more could add
Anyone who recommends PHSO as a process to consider should warn people of concerns complainants have about it : phsothetruestory.com/2023/01/25/mr-… please @PatientsAssoc @AvMAuk @HealthwatchE @ptsafetylearn issue a’ health warning ‘ from users
Others may do better
#phsothefacts #phsothirdharm #avoidPHSOsaveyourSanity
It seems strange that this did not hit media headlines don’t you think?
Bad news about PHSO never hits the media headlines. If it ever will, it is likely to concern an isolated example of egregious complaint mishandling (eg wrong leg removed in hospital) – nothing systemic involving lots of people. We will be told that lessons have been learned, systems have improved and a similar thing could not happen again. The people responsible will be long gone.
PHSO media enquiries:
Due to a media blackout the women’s case has been shut down . There was a massive protest in London traffic was at a standstill and not a mention on the news . Fiona Bruce was stuck in this traffic had to be rushed by police to make the news did she mention it ? No .
Love all the posts I have been fighting for 6 years and at the beginning, I was out every weekend with homemade placards and we all clubbed in to get a banner and went to the amazing Manchester demo. I am so angry about the PHSO we have been stitched up well and truly. I think that the SIX will get something and WE may get pennies. I am no longer ao much.s le to go and stand in all weathers I will help with emails and letters but mainly emails as stamps cost. I believe that we now live in a country that does not look after its people. The government with all the multi-millionaires and some billionaires doesn’t care. Good luck to all those ladies who have already bought tickets to go to London wish I could be there.
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Thank you for researching this, it takes us further in understanding the PHSO. Over the years, Individuals may feel their PHSO cases have been too easily dismissed. Though they recognise similarities with other individual cases, it could be argued, well, every case is different. As individuals, new to the game, skills and experience of the system are lacking so challenges may not be effectively made. Easily brushed off, proper scrutiny is not achieved.
What you’ve highlighted is that some of the same techniques of case management have apparently been applied to a large group application. The template appears the same -the scoping down tool, applied at the outset, scuppering full scrutiny.
PHSO publishing the first report before it released the second report is the icing on the cake. It means that it will be very difficult, if not impossible to review the 28 month maladministration time span. As we can see this allows them to avoid upholding the cases in part two.
In other words, corrupt by design
I was born in 1956, worked all my life 44 years of contributions. From working from cleaning to production line, with time and motion. Every minute of the working day counted. I was notified by DWP 18 months before, an increase of 6 years to my state pension. Followed the complaint’s process suggested by WASPI, only for ICE to close my case. This is not just maladministration if that wasn’t bad enough, it is also DISCRIMINATION these are two different issues.Reading this has been heartbreaking, to think the governments/PHSO feel so little of us. After being the back bone of society, to be treated like this there are no words. I have followed WASPI and numerous of times suggested all groups should unite. This has never happened we 50s women have been divided groups, and as long as it happens we will not be taken seriously. The APPG is a lost cause, no one in government really cares if they did something would have been done. This is my personal view after 8 years of trying. I will carry on not with WASPI who I think is a lost cause. But a different approach using CEDAW route, DISCRIMINATION. A UN directorate over 36 years in the making, and still hasn’t made it into law.
Yes, it is clear to me that the Waspi women have been divided. Can’t help but think that this was all part of the plan.
Marvellous work Della. I remember questioning ages ago why the report was in three stages with at that time no timescale for a decision. Also the deliberate shortening of the period of maladministration. You really have done a fantastic job of revealing the many inconsistencies and that the aim all along was to deny us any justice.
I try not to think about it too much and the difference it’s made to mine and other womens lives – to have to wait six years for our state pensions – I still have another two years to go. I am so disappointed that we have all been treated so shoddily and that’s generally acceptable. If I get one more tweet that states ‘well you wanted equality’ when this actually shows the reality – how little equality there is for women.
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That’s it Bernice. In one heartbreaking nutshell! You are speaking my story and that of thousands of women like us . 👍
This is so true I was born in 1955 it was too late to do anything when I finally found out
The longer the delay in making a final decision, the more WASPI women will have died off – hence another saving
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How is it they had no money to give us our pension but how many millions they give out during Covid . Let the younger generation have our jobs and give us our well deserved pensions
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Typical PHSO: give hope; string along for years; dump. Along the way pick up anyone willing to offer support and shout it from the rooftops.
Maybe MPs untroubled by the pension plight of millions just don’t get it. But this is what they do get:
‘This meant that if an MP served 10 years they could retire on a quarter of their final salary.
So, under their old wage of £67,500, an MP elected in 2005 would have received £16,765 a year in retirement. However, because their salaries are set to increase to £74,000 – they can now look forward to £18,500 in retirement. ‘
(MPs currently earn £84,144)
I was born 1958, I unfortunately I did not have any children so I worked most off my life, believing I would retire at 60 with a pension. I lost my husband at the age of 48, he was 54 when he passed and had paid the top tax grade most of his life with out seeing any benefit for he contributions. I carried on working until due too ill heath at 58 i had to give up work, I was unable to claim any benefits as my late husband pension provid me with a widows pension off £74 per week, which was £ 4 over the miminam you could earn… luckily for me I had some private pensions which I was able to draw out and I was also able to take the equity out of my house too live on….So for me what should off been a happy unstressful retirement at 60, has turned into spending six years living off money I had put aside for an very happy retirement and wondering how I am going to cope when I do eventually get my state pension that I have worked so hard for. May have posted this in the wrong place to sart with so if duplicated. …..other than posting on here I was unaware I could put a complaint in anywhere else, if I am able to and it will help please can someone advise me where and whom too. Thank you in advance.. Linda
This is exactly me except I don’t have a private pension of my own just my deceased hubbys one I am down to 12hrs a well working but struggling now to do that … I also can get no help as it’s just of allowance
This account is so clear and ties everything in…it makes sense. What makes me see red is the fact that we all did EXACTLY what the complaints procedure said we should. I feel like I’ve been asked to jump through hoops, write letters, get responses back in time, send by recorded delivery, etc etc. All for nothing, but THEY KNEW and I didn’t. The Ombudsman has always been the last chance to get justice. The thought that this whole debacle has been set up to deliberately string us along, further torture, to stretch the agony out as long as possible, I am fuming.
It is interesting to note that none of the six test cases happened to make important decisions within the 28th month time period. If they had, they could have determined harm due to maladministration.
It makes you wonder whether these six were chosen for that very reason.
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My understanding is that the 6 test cases covered the range of issues being complained about. The PHSO has acknowledged already that their personal circumstances could not reflect 3.8m of us. If any of us can show evidence of a loss of opportunity or a financial loss due to the maladministration then we should get more compensation. Otherwise it appears to be £1k for distress.
No private pension scheme, can arbitrarily, change the payout date for those already signed up to the contract😠It would be illegal to break the contract.
😠Taking money and spending it,from a pension pot, that you have paid nothing into is also illegal. Hasn’t a business owner recently, gone to prison for that?
😡Why is it even up for discussion?
The Government work for the electorate.They are not above the law.
They should NOT be allowed to break it and get away with it.😡😡😡😡😡
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The government are indeed crooks and thieves. If this were a private pension scheme, individuals would have legal recourse.
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I agree, as far as I am concerned, the government have broken their own laws. They have been sneaky and devious and all this ONLY AGAINST WOMEN. We should be taking this to the European court of human rights and we should have done that YEARS AGO
The law was changed in 1995 and in 2011, most campaigners incorrectly refer to losses caused by this.
Maladministration that the PHSO has investigated is only basically saying the DWP was slow in acting on its own survey.
I certainly hope that the 28 month maladministration found by the PHSO leads to a payment for those it harmed.
I’m sure that some of the six test cases have provided proof of their loss. I’m equally sure that public pressure will ensure that others who can provide similar proof will receive compensation.
What I think would be unacceptable would be a payment to all 50’s born women based only on saying that they didn’t know.
Unfortunately, Paul, none of the six test cases have been able to prove that their loss/harm was caused by the 28 month delay. PHSO can now determine that the maladministration did not cause harm. Therefore no uphold . It has been suggested that each receive £1000 for distress.
Thank you for your reply Della.
Yes I had heard of this £1000 and the speculation on who would be given it. Would it be just the 6, would it be those who submitted the maladministration claim or would it be for all 3.6 million?
From your article:-
115. Unpublished DWP research from 2007 found 85% of women aged 48 to 59 knew State Pension age was going to be equalised, but many women did not know when it would happen.
No idea where that leaves things but a payment to all would be the worst of a bad lot!
The six will automatically get £1000. Everyone else has to apply to DWP and show that they suffered in the same manner. Many women won’t even know they can apply to DWP for this money.
Paul, did you read the blog and the report? There was maladministration right from the start. The DWP failed to target those affected with appropriate information. The PHSO has deliberately chosen to focus on the claimed 28 month delay to reduce the perceived severity of the maladministration. Everyone affected by the DWPs failures deserves compensation.
Yes of course I read the article Nicholas. I also read that the PHSO has said the 28 months he found maladministration is non negotiable.
But PHSO, do you have a review stage. So this decision should not be set in stone.
I can’t see the DWP accepting the recommendations that the PHSO seems to be making about giving us £1k. They will point to their surveys that do seem to show a fair percentage of us already knew by 2006.
A fair few isn’t ALL.
Providing evidence of “loss of opportunity” or “financial loss” is almost an impossible burden. How do you evidence something that didn’t happen? Something that might have been?
If anyone has examples it would help to share them which might enable others to claim.
I am not at all surprised at this outcome.
Having worked in the NHS for 30 + years, lived with a young family during the miners strike and living amongst the steel works institutions have been systematically decimated by the conservative government.
Women’s pension rights are mere nuisance to be swatted away. There’s is a draconian agenda. We need a change of government.
Joya, this scandal covers both Labour and Conservative governments. I’m afraid we need a new democracy.
I am disgusted how women have been treated i am 66 in June my husband has been supporting me for 7 years as i had to finish work on health issues . We have got poorer as the years have gone on using his savings and his pension i can only thank god that i got the husband i have got .I am one of the lucky ones to have his support a lot of women do not have this. Years ago these women would have been in the workhouse shame governments not to address this .
Shame indeed. Fortunately, those in power don’t appear to have emotions such as shame and regret. Many women failed to get a share of their husbands pensions on divorce under the false belief they were due to retire at 60. Once they found out, it was too late to change their circumstances.
I certainly come under that category. I did my final settlement late 2017 and early 2018. I decided to take the equity in the house and not touch his huge pension pot. The equity allowed me to get a small house. Had I known what I later learned in mid 2018 my decision might have been very different. Ironically neither the judge or solicitors or barrister seemed to know either otherwise they would have told me I had to work until I was 66.
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This is an absolute disgrace to women who raised children and stayed at home thinking they could retire at 60 I personally born in 1958 and raised 3 children definitely was never notified of any of this
I too was born 1958, I unfortunately I did not have any children so I worked most off my life, believing I would retire at 60 with a pension. I lost my husband at the age of 48, he was 54 when he passed and had paid the top tax grade most of his life with out seeing any benefit for he contributions. I carried on working until due too ill heath at 58 i had to give up work, I was unable to claim any benefits as my late husband pension provid me with a widows pension off £74 per week, which was £ 4 over the miminam you could earn… luckily for me I had some private pensions which I was able to draw out and I was also able to take the equity out of my house too live on….So for me what should off been a happy unstressful retirement at 60, has turned into spending six years living off money I had put aside for an very happy retirement and wondering how I am going to cope when I do eventually get my state pension that I have worked so hard for.
It is shameful, and I do believe reading between the lines of the PHSO report that the government deliberately kept women in the dark over the changes to pension age.
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Brilliant analysis Della of how the WASPI women were stung. They applied to the Ombudsman thinking they would get an impartial adjudication. But like everyone who complains to the Ombudsman they didn’t realise that the Ombudsman is not an impartial adjudicator but a duplicitous political player whose decisions are guided by political interests. They also failed to realise that once the Ombudsman has made a decision it is set in stone and there are no further options, other than political options, for obtaining justice. Sadly, the WASPI women even believed the judgement of 28 months of maladministration was some sort of victory. Game, set and match for the establishment?
As PHSO The Facts stated previously PHSO do not want to challenge policy decisions. Embarrass policy driven rationing ( of care) and decisions made that are unethical ( and designed to save money.
“The government are unaccountable and the Ombudsman is their unaccountable clean-up guy” is spot on. Its exactly the same with the NHS- NHS executives are unaccountable and PHSO is also unaccountable and simply acts as a further layer of cover up.
The UK is in an accountability crisis.
This is my experience of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the lengths they and PHSO went to to cover up : https://patientcomplaintdhcftdotcom.wordpress.com/
* democidal eugenic COVID policy that is. Edit of above
They are there to bury complaints . To adjudicate by all means necessary in favour of those in power. Even maladministration means nothing if the humble Ombudsman decides to agree with the maladministration outcome. I used to (correctly) argue that the complaint process is wrong to deal with most injustice as it suggests the system is OK , its just how it’s administered. This shows even maladministration of a bad system is OK…if the PHSO says so. Corrupt notions from top to bottom. Like saying ‘ the health care was poor, badly provided, but there is a chance ( more than ? Per cent) that the patient would have died anyway without it…so not needed! I guess govt democidal eugenics policy was just that. Clinically vulnerable will die anyway….. CRIMINAL IN THIS NEGLIGENT LETHAL STATE
Yes. The excuse that the harm would have happened in any event, therefore no uphold is a favourite of PHSO
I have said for years that the only way that the Waspi women will get any justice is by having independent women, with this as their agenda, standing in EVERY CONSTITUENCY in the country. That would frighten these government CRIMINALS into giving us some semblance of fairness and remind them that without US WOMEN they wouldn’t even be ALIVE