One can make a Difference

Jottings Index

It always encourages me when I hear of individuals taking on the government or large organisations in the pursuit of justice.

Two well known cases were the BA check-in lady (Nadia Eweida) who demanded the right to wear a jewellery cross at work, and the nurse whistle-blower (Helene Donnelly) at Stafford hospital. Two courageous ladies who put justice before their own careers. Both won their cases and brought about changes in their organisations. Helene was promoted, awarded an OBE, and has been able to improve situations in several other hospitals.

In 1999 I felt that the government was unjust when it legislated to reduce widows inherited state earnings related pension (SERPS) by 50% (An average loss of £20 per week). I took up the challenge (with no risk to my career as a pensioner!) and initially wrote to Age Concern and the Department of Social Security who could only confirm that the rule would come into force on the 6th April 2000.

I next wrote to our MP (Bob Russell, now Sir Bob). He was very sympathetic and raised the subject in the house.

To cut a long story short, my complaint was finally referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman who ruled in my favour. He issued a “Mal-administration order” to the Government to amend the pension rules so that the change could not be applied retrospectively. One wonders in how many other countries this would happen?

If you are a widow, and part of your state pension includes the whole of your late husband’s SERPS (now known as “Additional pension”), you know who to thank, your late husband, Sir Bob Russell, the Ombudsman and me.

P.S. I have loads of correspondence on the subject, including mail from Alistair Darling (one-time Chancellor of Exchequer), and a long letter from the Deputy Speaker, who, like my MP, was very sympathetic to my cause. My late wife Betty would be £30 per week better off, had I died before she did. I’d love to know just how many widows benefitted, and have absolutely no idea how their good fortune was fought for.