Mr B and the waspi sting part two

When the long-awaited PHSO investigation report is released in March 2023, millions of women will see how the Ombudsman manipulates the facts to draw illogical conclusions that minimise the harm to complainants. As a rule of thumb all those in positions of authority, be it government bodies, quangos, charities and legal institutions collude together against the citizen. Aided and abetted by the media, these cabals can cover up national scandals for decades. Meanwhile, citizens, believing in truth and justice, must repeatedly raise funds and exhaust their emotional resources in an attempt to lift the lid. Hillsborough is just one such example. 

With a 1% uphold rate it is clear that Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, works to protect the state and not the public. Key to case dismissal is the need to find injustice caused by maladministration when both are subject to Ombudsman’s discretion.

22. If we uphold a complaint, it means we have found maladministration and it led to injustice. We can recommend action the organisation should take to put things right. A finding of maladministration will not automatically result in a finding of injustice or a recommendation for remedy.’s_State_Pension_age_-_our_findings_on_the_Department_for_Work_and_Pensions_communication_of_changes_Final.pdf

The real work of the Ombudsman is damage limitation.  Partial upholds for minor issues enable them to justify their existence, as can be seen here in the 2021/22 ‘table of zeros’ Parliamentary Report. 

We saw in part one of Mr B and the waspi sting, that by cherry-picking their way through the evidence the Ombudsman managed to reduce over a decade of delay to just 28 months. Consequently, in order to uphold a complaint against the DWP, any claimed injustice must fall into that time zone.

Was it by chance that none of the sample cases made a decision within the maladministration zone?

A decision made before the start of the maladministration period, December 2006, is irrelevant as the unfolding injustice would have happened in any event. Well of course it would, because it wasn’t the 28-month delay which caused the injustice but the previous decade-long delay. Decisions made after 2009 could be dismissed by the acceptance that DWP did not have the resources to carry out a blanket mail-shot over a short period of time. This drip feed of information gave on average between three-year and one-year notification. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to spook the horses. Yet, is there any justification for the phased mail-shot procedure in the age of computer technology? It’s not as if DWP required a bank of typists correcting carbon copies with Tippex. One standard letter with the changes linked to dates of birth would have done the job. Even the myopic Ombudsman determined the feasibility of such an approach in the stage one report.

For example, it could have shared information about State Pension age as set out in Schedule 4 of the 1995 Pensions Act (listing State Pension age within certain age brackets) without including the recipient’s own date of birth in the letter. 


Traditionally, the Ombudsman reveals all in a final report, in keeping with its policy of investigating in secret, but in this case, PHSO has already published the first stage report before setting about investigating the claimed injustice.  The six sample cases were said to be representative of all the key complaints, but until the second report is published we only have their word for that.   

In stage one feedback, some of the women realised the significance of the 28-month maladministration finding and complained to the Ombudsman that this was unfair. The Ombudsman’s response was uncompromising. 

Some of the comments we received were about the findings we made during stage one of the investigation about DWP’s communication of State Pension age. These include people disagreeing with our decision about when DWP should have begun writing to women individually about their State Pension age following the 1995 Pensions Act. Our stage one findings are final. Our assessment of injustice during stage two is therefore based on our decision that DWP should have begun direct mail at least 28 months earlier than it did.

With secrecy shrouding the sample cases until the final report is published, the same rule will apply to any complaints that the sample was not representative. We are forbidden from discussing the report before its final publication, but by then it will be too late. This covert process is then promoted as open and transparent. 

If you are a divorced woman who agreed to a financial settlement on the basis that you would receive your pension at 60. Or if you rent your accommodation and consequently fell into arrears due to the delay in payment of your pension. Or perhaps you are one of those women who earned so little you had no savings to fall back on. These women, with no safety nets, would have suffered the greatest injustice and you may expect them to be represented. Many women have argued that it is impossible to represent the circumstances of millions of women in just 6 cases, and as we can see, these test cases are crucial to uphold.

How much control did the Ombudsman have in the selection and therefore control of the ‘injustice’ part of the equation?

The Ombudsman intervened in November 2017 but the six sample cases were not announced until nearly a year later, in October 2018. This article from the Financial Times (2017) reveals some interesting information about the selection process. 

According to Jamie Potter, partner at Bindmans, Waspi will be “working to assist the ICE in identifying an appropriate representative sample, with a view to establishing whether there was maladministration and how any such maladministration should be addressed”.

Ms Beevers said that Waspi’s legal team will be selecting the sample cases in two categories: women only affected by the 1995 Pension Act, and women affected by that act plus the 2011 one.

It would appear that the key players were the #Waspi campaign group, Bindmans LLP, their legal representatives and ICE, the Independent Case Examiner. How trustworthy were these agents? 

Let’s start with ICE. This government quango had already done its utmost to thwart the complainants and there is no doubt that it would have worked closely with the Ombudsman when passing on case information. 

Bindmans LLP seemed keen to move these complaints to the Ombudsman as soon as possible. In fact, it was due to the direct intervention of Bindmans in 2017, that the Ombudsman agreed to investigate the sample cases. That decision effectively stopped all new complaints to DWP, ICE or PHSO. 

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, contacted by Bindmans, has now stepped in and agreed with the ICE directly that it will streamline the process

A legal team such as Bindmans would know that PHSO has a very low uphold rate, that compensation payments are minimal and that there are no powers of compliance to enforce any financial restitution, should one be recommended. Bindmans were knowingly herding the complainants into a cul-de-sac. There are just five reviews for Bindmans LLP on Trust Pilot. Two of them are 5 star and the other three are 1 star. 

This one from August 2022 states;  

They are just after your money and nothing else. I wish I had someone to warn me when i made the fatal mistake of taking them on as my solicitors. If I could give them no stars I would.

Another from 2018 says; 

Useless, time wasting, pompous, arrogant, cherry pickers! Don’t waste your time contacting these slackers.
Only after high paying clients and easy cases. Solicitors are lame and no bite!
Do yourself a favour and just avoid these headline chasers.

It is certainly the case that Bindmans received significant payment from the #Waspi campaign group, yet just passed them down the line into oblivion. The whole point of taking the Ombudsman route is to avoid legal fees as it is an alternative to legal redress.

What of the #Waspi campaign leaders? Were they simply naive, too trusting of the process? 

The original #Waspi was set up by five women in 2015. But by 2016 there was a major split in the leadership and three of the original founders resigned.  

Following the split, the remaining founders of Waspi, Anne Keen and Celia Jones, will make up the interim working group, alongside “two very active Waspi women”, Mieke Vrijhof and Pat Tarttelin. Both the latter have a background in the charity sector.

Then in April 2018, six months before the announcement of the sample cases, there was a more acrimonious split which led to them losing their legal representation.  

Waspi – which is registered as company for legal case purposes – is now in dispute after the former directors lodged a formal objection to the new leadership, which means that Bindmans had to down tools due to potential conflicts of interests.

This has all the hallmarks of a coup and certainly, those 1950’s women who use Twitter show open hostility towards the #Waspi campaign using words such as ‘betrayal’ and ‘infiltration’.  Many do not feel that #Waspi represents them, yet this is still the campaign group that grabs the headlines and meets with MPs.  

Only a handful of people know the truth but it certainly looks as if the three parties selecting the case studies were safely under control. 

After all, the best way to win a war is to be on both sides.