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Guest Post By Laura Collins – (Sign the petition here).

As you are probably aware, at the request of the EU, the Conservative Government announced plans to equalise state pension age (SPA) for men and women in 1995.

They added 5 years to women’s SPA. They could have just as easily have lowered the men’s retirement age or met men’s and women’s somewhere in the middle, such as 62.5 years. However, they didn’t. Men have lost out as well, because when pension credit was introduced in 2003 men were entitled to pension credit at 60 if unemployed, in an amount equal to retirement pension, which effectively closed the gap between age of retirement for men and women already.

These changes wouldn’t be introduced until 2010, which was 15 years later, but it was done under the radar, sneakily one might say.

After all one would assume that such a big change to women’s SPA would involve notifying individually those most effected e.g. those born early to mid-1950s.

However, incredibly, this was never done. There are still women in the UK who have no idea that their retirement age has changed and it is only now, since the changes started in 2010, that women are becoming aware.

Consequently, for so many, it is as though the changes were both legislated and initiated only recently, without any notice at all! This has had a devastating effect on those women, who have had little or no time to prepare for those changes.

The Pensions Act 2007 legislated for additional increases to SPA for men and women: it would rise to 66 by 2026, 67 by 2036, and 68 by 2046. Again, many remained unaware of these changes.

Three years later, soon after the Coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to power (May 2010), the new Government stated, “We will (…) hold a review to set the date at which the SPA starts to rise to 66, although it will not be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women.” On 24 June 2010, the Government announced a review into the timing of the increase in SPA to 66.

To support this review a call for evidence was published” (DWP 2010). They received 352 responses from individual members of the public and 46 responses from organisations. A list of responding organisations is given in Annex A of A sustainable state pension: when the state pension age will increase to 66 (SSP). The call for evidence closed on 6 August 2010.

Only three months later, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Iain Duncan Smith), presented the SSP to Parliament. The Government now stated that the rise to 66 will start in 2018, two years earlier for women than promised only six months before.

It appears they never had any intention of sticking to their own timetable. Neither did it seem to bother the Coalition that at least half a million women were targeted by pension changes a second time, which is grossly unfair and obviously gave them even less time to prepare for the changes, if any.

“The hike in the SPA, fought by Labour last year, hits women currently in their late fifties who will be forced to work for longer before qualifying for the state pensions they have contributed to throughout their lives, juggling caring responsibilities for grandchildren and older parents while struggling to find work in the first place as unemployment continues to rise.“ (LabourList, published 14th April 2012, by Christine Quigley.)

So, with indecent haste the Coalition brought forward the the SPA of 66 for both men and women. From 2026 to 2028 the SPA will start rising to 67. After this the government will review the SPA every five years based on life expectancy. Why so fast?

Steve Webb MP, Minister of State for Pensions wrote in the Foreword to SSP “…the legislated timetable for increases in SPA was based on expectations of longevity that have since been revised. So those approaching retirement now will be claiming State Pension for longer than expected. In the face of increased life expectancy, making no change to the timetable for the increase in State Pension age to 66 risks the sustainability of the state pensions system…”

If what Steve Webb MP says is true (there is evidence to the contrary), it seems that an unfair proportion of this cost has already fallen on men and women born in the early to mid 1950s, who will work up to 51 years by the time they retire at 66. I do not see this as sharing the cost, but rather taking on a much bigger than average share, especially as people are now only required to work 35 years in order to receive a full state pension!

For this reason alone, women born in early to mid 1950s should be retiring at the time they were promised their whole lives, which is 60. Even then, they would have paid into the system for up to 45 years! (Of course it should be the same for men.) After all people generally expect things to improve for workers over time, not to get worse!

“The economic context has also changed since the SPA was last reviewed. The UK economy is recovering from the longest and deepest recession since official records began in 1955. The Government is taking steps to address our rising debt, because to fail to do so would also put an unfair burden on future generations. “ (SSP, 2010)

But just how bad is our “rising debt” anyway?

“The National Debt began in the 20th century at about 30 percent of GDP. It jerked above 150 percent in World War I and stayed high. Debt breached 200 percent during World War II. Debt declined to 50 percent of GDP by the 1970s and dipped to 25 percent by 1990. The National Debt began a rapid increase in the aftermath of the worldwide financial crisis of 2008” (http// national debt chart.html)

“From 1918 to 1961 the UK national debt was over 100% of GDP. During that period the Government introduced the welfare state, the NHS, state pensions, comprehensive education, built millions of council houses, and nationalised a range of industries. The public sector grew and there was economic growth.

Today, the coalition Government wants to turn back the clock. It is set on dismantling the NHS and comprehensive education, and it is attacking the welfare state.

It is not doing this because the country is on the verge of economic collapse, it is doing it because it is ideologically opposed to public services and the welfare state, and committed to handing over more of our public assets to big business. “ ( I couldn’t agree more.

It appears that the rising SPA is related to these ideological cuts. Again, the following is taken from the SSP, 2010:

“…By any measure, people are living longer after they reach 65 than ever before…” and…“…Consensus among demographers is that life expectancy will continue to improve. Although there is debate about the pace of improvement and the health trends that affect lifespan, it is considered unlikely that life expectancy will reduce.” plus…“….As the pace of longevity improvements to date has been faster than expected, official projections have consistently underestimated actual average lifespans. Even in the last few years, these projections have been revised upwards.”

Saying this over and over does not make it so! It is not supported in research. Government ministers have been urged to tread carefully before upping retirement ages for workers, as life expectancy predictions may be overly-optimistic. Retirement specialist Partnership and the International Longevity Institute UK said at a House of Lords panel discussion that previous predictions about how long pensioners would live in retirement are actually now being revised down!

The call also follows research by Partnerships longevity director Richard Willets in 2012, claiming that there are currently 30,000 fewer people in their 90s in the UK than census projections from previous decades suggested there would be. (, by Adam Uren)

In 2009, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) projected that men and women aged 65 in 2008 could expect to live another 19 and 21.3 years respectively. But in last year’s figures (2013), the ONS said 65-year-old men and women in 2012 could expect to live 18.3 and 20.6 years respectively, ( 2014.) Surely governments should not be allowed to misrepresent figures to suit their own purpose?

David Willetts, Conservative Party politician said: “While we naturally want to be optimistic about life expectancy, it is vital that the statistics that are used to determine public spending, SPA and retirement income are as accurate as projections can be.

Analysis of the 2011 Census and the ONS population projections suggest that this may not be the case and that we need to seriously consider how we collect and use this data.” Or maybe there shouldn’t be projections at all, if they are then used to inform policy which then has a huge negative impact on people’s lives.

“Though figures show that rising life expectancy means the average woman can expect to live 83.4 years, they will lose their overall good health 19 years earlier.” (Laura Donnelly, Health Editor of the Telegraph, July 2014).

The study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is that the healthy life expectancy for females is now 64.1 years, which is less than retirement age, as it is for men, whose healthy life expectancy is 63.4 years. So though some people are living longer on average those same statistics that are used to justify increasing SPA, say that healthy life expectancy is lower than the retirement age of 65. These facts seem to have been conveniently ignored.

In “A call for evidence” (Chapter 2 of SSP) this is illustrated very well.

Question 1: What evidence concerning changes to life expectancy and the changed economic context should be taken into account when bringing forward the increase in State Pension age to 66?

Concerns among respondents were “..that life expectancy varies, particularly between different socio-economic groups and different geographical areas…”

Most respondents made a distinction between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. They were worried that gains in life expectancy might not be matched by gains in healthy life expectancy so that, while we are living longer, a disproportionate part of that extra time would be spent in ill health.

The Government was asked to consider healthy life expectancy in addition to life expectancy when making its decision, and that healthy life expectancy, as well as life expectancy, is lower than average among people from particular socio-economic groups or living in particular areas.” Quite, but was this considered at all?

Apparently not, as the response to these concerns was “…though differences do exist. The State Pension age cannot be calibrated to these differences in life, and healthy life, expectancy.” Instead, “The Government as a whole is committed to reducing these long-term differences.” They’d need to be quick. People are already being affected by these changes.

“…It will do this by raising healthcare standards, establishing a new public health service and tackling health inequalities..” Equity and Excellence, the NHS White Paper, seeks to raise standards by making the service more responsive to needs, by putting patients and the public first to improve health and healthcare outcomes – including healthy life expectancy – empowering staff, and strengthening accountability. “

How is that going to help people who are around 60 or more already? Doesn’t it come a bit late for them? People are being forced to work until they are 66, when they’re already suffering age-related complaints or disabilities. It sounds like a lot of waffle used to justify a completely discriminatory, draconian change in SPA for those already so close to retirement. And what have the coalition achieved anyway re: the NHS?

In the“Summary of performance”, (King’s Fund, 2012) “…it appears that the performance of the NHS is holding up despite financial pressures and the disruption of reforms. However, cracks are emerging – for example, with a deterioration in waiting times in A&E (see Section 1) – and significant variations remain by geography and socio-economic status in access to care, health outcomes and the quality of care received. While patients report improvements in transactional aspects of care (access and food), there remain concerns about the relational aspects of care, such as emotional support, dignity and empathy, particularly in acute hospitals…”

Data from the latest British Social Attitudes Survey (National Centre for Social Research 2012) also suggest that the levels of public satisfaction with the NHS have reversed. This shift follows a long period of annual increases in the proportion of the population who reported they were satisfied. This peaked in 2010, with 70 per cent of people very or quite satisfied, falling to 58 per cent in 2011. “

So the commitment to improve healthy life expectancy differences in various socio-economic groups has been a failure so far. And for those born in the 1950s, the disadvantages many suffer because of where they live and the work they do, are ignored. This is an intolerable situation for those affected, yet nothing is done to change this.

Question 2: What evidence should the Government consider in deciding the notice period for individuals affected by a change in the timing of the State Pension age to 66?

“Calls for a sufficient notice period were driven by concern for the ability of individuals, employers and pensions providers to be able to adjust their planning accordingly. Some individual respondents felt that they had an agreement with either the government or society to work a certain number of years, which was now being broken.” How true.

The Government’s response? The notice period given to individuals affected by bringing forward the increase to 66 has to be balanced against the need to ensure that the state pensions system is sustainable and fair to each generation.” Fair to each generation except those born in the early to mid 1950s! Again, they are thrust aside as irrelevant, as though they don’t exist!

Question 3: What evidence should the Government consider to ensure no group is disproportionately impacted by the level of the State Pension age and any change to the timing of the State Pension age increase to 66?

“…Some organisations noted that women still have a shorter working life than men, meaning less opportunity to build up a private pension; this was linked to women pensioners being poorer relative to men. A number of respondents affected by current plans for equalisation of women’s SPA at 65 said it was important that the Government considers the impact on them were their SPA to rise (again) to 66, and to allow sufficient notice for plans to be adjusted further.

The Response from DWP, “…With greater numbers of women working, we can no longer assume women will rely on their husbands for financial maintenance. More women are now building a State Pension entitlement of their own rather than relying on their husband’s. A succession of reforms means women – who often take time away from work to raise a family or care for others – are better able to build up a State Pension than ever before.”

Younger ones maybe, but this doesn’t apply to women born in the early to mid-fifties! We are ignored yet again! And some of these women will suffer another blow, when 2016 will see an end to women drawing a pension against their husband’s NI contributions, even though that was promised to them during their working lives. The Government are targeting the same women again and again!

“Rising life expectancy combined with a decline in the ratio of working-age people to pensioners means that, without change, age-related costs will fall disproportionately on younger generations. To help meet that challenge, the younger working-age population will see their State Pension age rise to 67 or 68 under current timetables. Those now approaching State Pension age should share in the costs as well as the benefits of improved longevity.”

Really? Haven’t they paid a sufficient amount already? They will be paying into the system for up to 51 years! And that isn’t enough?

In ‘work Till You Drop: Who Benefits from the End of Retirement?’ By Teresa Ghilarducci, she says, “The grim spectre that strong-armed generational politics forces young workers to pay high taxes to support the leisure of healthy older people is not supported by the evidence.”

And here comes the truth of the matter “…bringing forward the increase in SPA to 66 by 6 years will result in total net savings of approximately £30.4 billion between 2016/17 and 2025/26 (when the State Pension age was due to have reached 66 under existing legislation).  This total includes the predicted cost of an increase in claims for working-age benefits.”

There we see the true reason for the changes to SPA- saving money. It is cheaper to pay unemployment benefits than it is to pay a pension. Yet it seems to be a short-sighted policy, where the only winners are the Government! It certainly doesn’t help employers or the young.

The 2007 Act which removes the age cap on entitlement to redundancy will see a rise in payouts for the over 60s. The Statutory redundancy rebate will be abolished for employers where the date of redundancy occurs on or after 1/1/13.

So employers are already bearing the brunt of redundancy payments How long before corporations get very fed up with bearing the costs of redundancies and possibly unfair dismissal tribunals as well?

The UK already have people signing on in their 60s, paying bedroom tax and living in extreme poverty and those same people will lose out in so many other ways.

For instance, free bus passes (some get this at 60 still, but most will not get it until they retire because of where they live); the heating allowance, even pension credits which many men received at 60 previously.

They are being discriminated against for being born in the wrong year! People born in early to mid-fifties should have been exempt from these changes. They simply haven’t had enough notice to prepare. Even Age UK, who have abandoned us, agree!

Responding to autumn statement 2013 Charity Director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, said “Raising the State Pension Age for future generations will be good for the public purse in the long-term but not for individuals. It will be especially tough on people who won’t live very long – who are likely to be on low incomes – because they may find they don’t have much retirement left to enjoy. It will also be tough on those who lose their jobs in their fifties and sixties , of whom there are far too many at present, whose chances of ever getting another job are slim. And it will be tough on those in poor health who cannot work, or who are caring for others. For all these reasons we are worried this policy could create a more unfair society. To avoid this, the Government must do more to help the least well off as they approach retirement in terms of income and employment opportunities.”

Ask yourself this. Do you see it as right that a women in her 60s could likely be signing on, receiving £72.40 per week, looking for work that she will probably never get, suffering with numerous age related complaints, paying the bedroom tax out of her measly benefit, living in abject poverty in other words, just because she was born a few years after her peers who got to retire at 60 with all the benefits that ensures? It’s exactly the same situation for men, though men do tend to be better off than women.

I am appalled by the lack of compassion in this country shown by those who Govern.

Rachel Reeves, shadow minister for work and pensions said, “Along with Labour leader Ed Miliband, I will be leading the charge in Parliament against these unfair and unjust plans. They are unfair because they target a group of women who have, on average, just one sixth of the savings built up by men of the same age.

“Forty per cent of them have no savings at all. Many of the women will have taken time off to bring up families. They have received lower pay throughout their career: in 1980, when these women were in their mid 20s, the pay gap was 30 per cent.

“Many of these women worked part-time and would have been prevented from saving for a pension because companies did not have to provide occupational pensions for part-time workers until the mid-1990s.

“I am under no illusions about the demand on the system from increasing life expectancy. But there is an alternative.

“I have backed a plan that would equalise the state pension age for men and women by 2020 and then increase the pension age for both men and women from 65 to 66 between 2020 and 2022”.

Though I don’t feel they went far enough in slowing down the increases to SPA, certainly labour were on the right track. Yet what has happened since? Labour too have abandoned us.

Did everyone have enough notice of these changes? Iain Duncan Smith said “The review will seek to give individuals affected by changes to their SPA of at least 10 years notice”.

MPs and Judges HAVE been given transitional protection on the basis that “This protection strives to be fair to members who are close to their expected retirement age and are less able to change their plans than younger members”.

That obviously didn’t happen with the second pension rise and in a way it didn’t happen with the first in 1995, as so many remain unaware of it. As one of the women affected along with many others, I certainly didn’t receive any notification at all, either in 1995, 2007 or 2010.

Consider the divorced woman, whose settlement was based on retiring at 60, who has now another six years to wait. Think of the single woman, who is relying solely on a state pension, being made to work an extra six years, even though in many cases that means working and paying into the system for 51 years, often while suffering ill-health.

There is definitely a whiff of misogyny here. Changes for men have been minor compared to the older women in this country who have borne the brunt of these totally unfair changes.

When they started work at 15, there were no benefits which women enjoy now i.e. help with child care costs, maternity leave and flexible working hours nor was there equal pay.

Most women who had children had to wait until their children started school in order to get work, which was generally part-time as there were very few nurseries and certainly none in the workplace.

Also women were rarely part of a pension work scheme. So they had to relinquish any hope of a private pension, except through their husbands.

Many women these days enjoy many benefits including being part of private pension scheme and are not so reliant on the state pension. Women born in the 1950s are generally entirely reliant on a state pension, which while working they have paid into!

This has become a UK that discriminates against the poor and the weak and still discriminates against the women that have been discriminated against their whole lives!

Government cannot be allowed to ignore a generation of women, just because we’re used to being cheated! Or because it suits the government’s purpose! This makes for an unfair society.

Those pensions do not belong to anyone except the people who paid into them!

It has been so easy for governments to take away what isn’t theirs! We want our pensions when they were promised to us for most of our working lives! Especially since: “Women stop progressing in their careers at the age of 45, while men start to stagnate at 55.”

That’s what HR bosses told the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, Dr Ros Altmann, when she embarked on a major report into ageism at work. (Hazel Sheffield, The independent, 11-03-15.) How is raising the SPA going to help older people?

Why would employers want older people working for them anyway if they believe this? Is that our future? No work, living in poverty, while being made to wait longer and longer for our pensions?

Working class people who often do physically demanding jobs are being cheated out of their healthy retirement years by the rising SPA. Many people still die before they have a chance to retire. They deserve better! Yet it must be assumed that governments don’t really care, as they remain silent.

Where are all these jobs that people in their 60s are supposed to find anyway? Maybe those who have continued in the same job for years will be ‘lucky’ enough to hold on to their jobs. But in my humble opinion, this “highest level of employment” spouted by the Coalition is a joke. When are MPs going to admit there will never be full employment ever again? Why are they so obsessed with employment figures. Some realism injected into politics would be greatly appreciated.

“Up to 35% of Britain’s jobs will be eliminated by new computing and robotics technology over the next 20 years, say experts.” (Alan Tovey, Editor Telegraph, 14-3-15)

“Huge advances in technology risks creating an under-class of low-skilled people whose jobs have been automated, according to a joint report from Deloitte, the Big Four accountancy firm, and the University of Oxford.

The research predicts that as much as 35% of jobs across the country will be made redundant by technical advances over the next 10 to 20 years – some 10.8 million positions. According to the latest official data, 30.76 million people are employed in the UK.” So again, where does that leave people in their 60s?

Have MPs totally forgotten that this age group are core voters? By continually ignoring their situation, MPs could be shooting themselves in the foot.

I have not heard one political party representative mention the rising SPA in this run up to the election. Do you think that keeping quiet about it means that thousands of affected people will continue happily in ignorance about these changes?

More and more people are realising what is going on and there are more and more angry voters out there wanting change.

Many have written to MPs about their situation. Sometimes they are totally ignored, while others have had their letters referred to the DWP to answer. The answers just feed back that which they already know. Writing has been a total waste of time. They were asking for help and were ignored!

On May 13th 2013, Ros Altmann wrote What the State pension changes mean for older women. “I have been inundated with emails from worried older women who want to know when they will reach state pension age, how much pension they will be paid and why the government is not giving them adequate information to help them prepare themselves.

“They have received confusing information from the Department for Work and Pensions and just want to know how old they will be when they start to receive their state pension.

“Unfortunately, the way the changes have been designed, it is virtually impossible to give them a straight answer.

“The women also want to know how much they might receive but this is also still unclear. This impacts women far more than men, because the state pension rules are changing much more for older women than for men of the same age.

“Government fails to understand the impact on people’s lives. The Chancellor indicated yesterday that he was delighted with these changes because they saved so much money.

“This does suggest that the Government is insensitive to the damage done to many older women’s lives by its policies.

“Older women are being singled out for harsh treatment. Until recently, many of these women were expecting to receive their state pension at age 60, since they were unaware of the changes made in 1995.

“The coalition agreement did promise that no changes would be made to women’s state pension age before 2020.

“Indeed, for public sector pensions, the Government insisted that it would not be fair to change the pension age for anyone within ten year’s of their expected pension date.

“However, the coalition has decided that different rules will apply for this particular group of women.

“These women are now having to cope with the news that their state pension will start much later, but are also confused about when they will actually receive it.

“Even those who were aware of the previous changes and planned their finances around their expected pension date, have had the second increase in pension age imposed on them by the coalition and, if they are already retired either due to ill health or to care for others, they face significant financial strain.

“The government has not acknowledged their plight. The coalition seems so far oblivious to the actual problems faced by these women, who feel as if they simply do not matter to policy makers.

“Policy changes seem to be decided without sufficient careful thought for the actual people whose lives are being affected and who have to engage with this system.”

She also suggests exemptions for the seriously ill and that Pensions Credit eligibility could be left at the current SPA to aid the very poorest. (Pensions world, 3 April 2015). Even that would have made a huge difference. Yet it seems that the coalition are not interested in anyone else’s opinion on the subject.

John Hannett, general secretary of Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), agrees that these women do not have enough time to prepare. “Women are already disadvantaged as this particular generation has tended to earn far less during their working careers, were often prohibited from joining a private pension scheme when they started working and have had interrupted careers, meaning less chance to build up a pension outside the state system,”

Shadow Pensions Minister Rachel Reeve has pointed out that the average pension saving of a 56 year old woman is £9,100, equating to just £11 a week, almost six times lower than that of a man of the same age, so this group of women cannot rely on good occupational pensions and yet they are being asked to bear the burden of this policy change.

Yvette Cooper, new Shadow Home Secretary, has also written about the changes: “Thanks to our mothers and grandmothers, each generation of women has enjoyed more opportunities and greater equality than the last,” she says. “But after generations of progress, I fear women’s equality is under shocking attack. For the sake of our daughters, we must not allow David Cameron and Nick Clegg to reverse those decades of progress.”

Saving money seems to be the main motivating force for the rise in SPA in spite of George Osborne sitting on 30 billion, saved from Welfare last year (2014).

Writing in the Daily Mirror, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott says figures from the House of Lords Library show the Government spent £106 billion from National Insurance (NI) contributions last year.

The benefits system received £85 billion and the NHS got £21 billion. Then he discovered something “that stunned him – the Government last year held back nearly £30 billion”, he said. (Posted by Welfare Weekly – Dec 7, 2014)

As State pensions are lumped with benefits, is that where our pensions sit?

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. People born in the early to mid 1950s need somebody to speak up for them, as nobody is listening to them at present.

They need somebody to fight alongside them or at least against this discrimination. Will you be that person? Will you endorse the petition or at least publicise it and help spread the word to others about what’s actually happening?

I hope so, because there are hundreds of thousands of people out there, especially women, who still do not know about the changes to SPA. I’d very much like to change that, because people need to know. I hope you agree.

Sign the petition here.