Nearly 3.8 million women born in the 1950s could be affected by the results of a court hearing on 5 and 6 June 2019.
Backto60, a group campaigning on their behalf, has been granted judicial review to determine whether increases to women’s State Pension age, and the impact of those changes, amounted to age and sex discrimination.
These women were hit hard when successive governments hiked up the age when they would get their State Pension. They expected payments to start at 60 – but then the government moved the goal posts. Changes were introduced further and faster than anticipated. Worse still, many women were only notified within a year of their expected retirement age, while others didn’t receive letters at all.
This left some women with less than a year’s notice to prepare for a six-year increase in their State Pension age, missing out on up to £45,000 as it rose from 60 to 65.
How did the State Pension age change?
Until 2010, women started receiving their State Pension earlier than men, at the age of 60 rather than 65.
The Pensions Act 1995 proposed gradually pushing up State Pension age for women from 60 to 65 over the 10 years from April 2010 to April 2020. But then the Pensions Act 2011 accelerated the changes, so State Pension age hit 65 by November 2018.
The Government plans to carry out a further review before legislating to bring forward the rise in State Pension age to 68, to "enable consideration of the latest life expectancy projections and to allow us to evaluate the increase in State Pension age from 65 to 66".— Josephine Cumbo (@JosephineCumbo) March 7, 2019
State Pension age will continue rising to 66 by October 2020, then 67 by 2028, with plans to push it up to 68 between 2037 and 2039. You can check your own State Pension age at www.gov.uk/state-pension-age.
What went wrong?
Hundreds of thousands of women and their families have suffered financial hardship, because they weren’t given sufficient warning about the changes.
The government didn’t start writing to notify any of the women affected for nearly 14 years after the Pensions Act 1995. Many had less than a year’s notice that their State Pension age had increased by four, five or even six years. The abrupt changes left little time to make other plans, or save money to cover the gap.
All the signs of a growing scandal here. Having worked with @thisismoney on these cases, I’m increasingly convinced these are not isolated errors but rather a systematic problem with incorrect state pension forecasts https://t.co/t7b7wrYWRh— Steve Webb (@stevewebb1) May 25, 2019
Many had already taken irrevocable decisions – such as accepting redundancy, taking early retirement or leaving jobs for caring responsibilities – based on expecting their State Pension to kick in when they reached 60.
Single, divorced and widowed women have been particularly hard hit, lacking any income from a husband or partner. The entire pension system was structured around married couples and male breadwinners, assuming that wives would benefit from their husband’s pension money.
How to close the pension gender gap? Anne Boden from @starlingbank and Romi Savova @pensionbee hopefully know! Thrilled to see two women who have started a bank and a pension company to put you in control of your money. #womeninfinance #gendergap #equality #startuplife pic.twitter.com/hYfKXTLGg3— PensionBee (@pensionbee) May 31, 2018
Equalisation of the State Pension age is especially devasting for the generation of 1950s women who have already suffered from gender pay gaps, lower workplace pensions than men and the financially disastrous ‘married women’s stamp’.
These women are less likely to have had well-paid jobs and more likely to have stopped work to look after children. With less chance to build up a workplace or private pension, any changes to the State Pension are far more damaging.
How can I get involved?
If you want to take action, consider joining one of the campaign groups below.
Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is fighting for fairer treatment, a bridging pension and compensation for those who have suffered financial losses. WASPI is currently pursuing a complaint of maladministration with the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Visit www.waspi.co.uk for details.
Meanwhile BackTo60 is campaigning for all women born during the 1950s to have their financial position put back to where it would have been, had their State Pension started at the age of 60. See www.backto60.com for more information.
Check back for a further post after the hearing with tips on how women affected can cope with their State Pension delays.