Pension changes for women - so will I ever retire?

Dad's Army's Captain Mainwaring statue in Thetford wearing a WASPI sash in February 2017. Picture: P

Dad's Army's Captain Mainwaring statue in Thetford wearing a WASPI sash in February 2017. Picture: PAIN-WASPI - Credit: Archant

In the years since 2010, women’s state pension age has risen to 65 years and from December 6, this year, a rise to 66 begins to be phased in.

WASPI campaigners at an event in Gressenhall in January, 2018. Photo: Pension Action in Norfolk

WASPI campaigners at an event in Gressenhall in January, 2018. Photo: Pension Action in Norfolk - Credit: Pension Action in Norfolk

I am among the raft of women born in the 1950s who feel aggrieved by the changes in State Pension Age.

Why?

In 1995, the Conservative Government’s Pension Act included plans to increase women’s State Pension Age to 65, bringing it in line with men’s. While there is no argument about equalisation, it is right that women and men should retire at the same age, it was felt that the way the changes were implemented was unfair. Women were given little or no personal notice of the change until around 2009. It appears to have been assumed that they would find out somehow.

Subsequently, in 2011, the age was upped again to 66, being phased in for those born after December 5, 1953. As of tomorrow (December 6, 2019), the age at which people receive the state pension age rises from 65 to 65-and-three-months. In the new year, the increments continue until they reaches 66, on September 6, 2019. Thereafter it is due to rise again to 67 and then 68.

WASPI (Women Against State Pension Increase) campaignersmeeting outside Endeavour House ahead of a f

WASPI (Women Against State Pension Increase) campaignersmeeting outside Endeavour House ahead of a full council meeting in 2017. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant


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The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign started via Facebook in 2015 when a number of women got together to fight what they considered a burning injustice. Other women’s groups also formed. And despite a vigorous campaign, supported by many MPs, including Ipswich’s Sandy Martin and others in the region, nothing much happened to give them real hope... until now.

A Judicial Review Hearing was held in the High Court on November 30, with regard to three women born between 1950 and 1953. The women are in a group called BackTo60 which was crowdfunded to get the hearing. The women claimed they were not properly informed about the changes to state pension age and thus, did not have time to adjust to it. Appearing for the Department of Work and Pensions, Julian Mitford said the changes were intended to bring about equalisation between genders of state pensionable age. But he conceded the reform was also intended to help alleviate fiscal pressures. It has been estimated that the Treasury has saved more than £5 billion by raising the pension age.

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Justin McGilloway, a solicitor specialising in pension law, has said that a woman born in April 1955 (I was born in February of that year), whose state pension age was announced to be increased from 60 to 65 in 1995 and then to age 66 in 2011 might have only found out about the changes in 2013 – giving just two years’ notice of a loss of pension amounting to over £35,000.

Mrs Justice Lang said the women’s case was arguable and granted permission for a full hearing. A small victory perhaps, but a notable one. Michael Mansfield QC will be acting for the BackTo60 women in the Judicial Review which will take place in January.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous with the WASPI campaign petition he presented to the House of Commons in 201

Waveney MP Peter Aldous with the WASPI campaign petition he presented to the House of Commons in 2016 on behalf of 2,249 residents of the Waveney constituency. Picture: CRAIG HARVEY - Credit: Archant

I knew I was affected by the change because one of my pension providers, which had assumed I would retire at 60, wrote to say they had moved my funds out of very safe investments (which is where they tend to be put just prior to retirement) and into medium safe (thus higher earning) funds. In practice this means that I may have lost some money due to the interest earned being lower for a period.

Meanwhile, the age at which I can draw my state pension is 66.

Looking at it across a life’s work, until I was (at least) 40 I thought I would retire at 60. Now, at 63, I am looking at another three years’ work until I qualify for the state pension.

Meanwhile, my husband, who is 18 months older than me, was able to retire at 65. I had imagined I would have had about three years of retirement before he joined me at home. As it is, he is at home, waiting for me.

Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, is among the East Anglian MPs supporting the WASPI campaign. Pict

Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, is among the East Anglian MPs supporting the WASPI campaign. Picture: Archant Library 2017 - Credit: Archant

WASPI proposes “a ‘bridging’ pension’ to provide an income until State Pension Age, not means-tested, and with recompense for losses for those women who have already reached their State Pension Age.

United Nations independent expert Philip Alston, whose report on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK came out on November 16, showed the number of pensioners living in poverty in the UK had risen by 300,000 to 16% in the four years to 2016/17. And he found a group of women born in the 1950s had been particularly impacted due to a “poorly phased in” change in the state pension age.

One sometimes gets the sense that those in power think that if WASPI women and similar groups are ignored they will eventually go away. I can tell them now, they won’t.• A debate in Parliament was held on July 5, 2017. It is available to read here.

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