Some 3.8 million women born in the 1950s must wait to find out the results of a court case about how the government delayed their State Pension for up to six years.
The hearing against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) took place in the High Court on 5 and 6 June. The judgement is yet to be published, but here is a summary of the key arguments.
The case asks for compensation for women born between April 1950 and April 1960 on the basis of a combination of age and sex discrimination and the government’s failure to properly inform those affected.
Many of these women have suffered financial and emotional distress, after successive governments sped up the process of raising their State Pension age from 60 to as high as 66.
Back to 60 and another campaign group, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), have long argued that many women received little or no personal notice of changes to their State Pension age, and therefore did not have time to make other plans.
In court, the DWP defended the changes as a measure designed to equalise the State Pension age between men and women, and to ensure intergenerational fairness between those receiving the State Pension, and younger taxpayers funding them.
The DWP insisted that the Government had taken “extensive” steps to notify women of the changes. The DWP also said that “personal notifications would have been difficult if not impossible prior to 2003”.
Yet the legal team for Back to 60 produced internal documents showing the DWP was aware on at least six occasions, in 1998, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2015, that information about changes to State Pension age was not reaching the women affected.
As reported by David Hencke in the Byline Times, civil servants repeatedly warned ministers about problems ahead. The memos reveal that ministers rejected proposals to send out a mass mailing with tax paperwork in 1997. They also predicted criticism of the DWP’s failure to communicate with the women affected in 2007, and refer to ‘widespread ignorance” of the changes with only three years to go. Direct mailing only started in 2009 – just a year before the State Pension age started to go up, and 14 years after the initial legislation in 1995.
The DWP also argued that there was no duty of fairness to the women affected, no obligation to notify them, and no right to expect legal remedy for the lack of notice, as reported by The Guardian.
At heart, the case is all about money. The legal representative for the DWP said that raising pension age to 66 also aimed to “make pensions affordable…and to control government expenditure at a time of great pressure on public finances”.
The day after the judicial review hearing, the DWP released figures calculating that the net cost of reversing the changes, so State Pension age returns to 60 for women and 65 for men, adds up to a massive £215 billion.
In practice, the court case is not seeking such astronomical sums. The hearing did not ask to reverse the State Pension age changes for both men and women, but just for compensation for women born in the 1950s. But it could still cost many billions of pounds.
For now, the 1950s women, government and taxpayers must wait for the judgement to be published, to find out if any compensation will be awarded at all.