Many 1950s women have had the date that they can claim their state pension radically changed, sometimes by up to six years, causing economic uncertainty, illness, and further hardship.
My knowledge of this issue began about four years ago, when my mum was told, as a woman born in 1955, that she would not be entitled to receive her state pension until she was 66, several years after she had anticipated receiving it for most of her working life. Now, pensions are very complicated things, and I’m not going to try and pretend to understand them. I don’t think even those who run pension funds fully understand them, so the rest of us don’t really stand a chance. Instead, what this article will do is discuss exactly why the changes made for 1950s women were unfair, and what is happening in the near future. And to understand why, in the words of one SNP MP, these women have been:
Shafted and short-changedMhairi Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (SNP)
There are two major arguments that are being put forward by the women’s pension groups, and which support the backbone of their case that will be heard by the judicial review in June:
The first is that the changes happened too quickly and were communicated poorly, and the second is that as these women have had to deal with income inequality/gender-based inequalities most of their lives, this change is doubly unfair. The one thing that is not being argued is that moves to bring men and women’s state pension ages in-line with each other is unfair. The way in which it has been carried out has resulted in financial hardship and even poverty for hundreds of thousands of women. It is estimated that over 3.8M women have been affected by the changes.
The changes have affected different groups to differing extents, and some women have lost tens of thousands of pounds in actual earnings, without ever having had the chance to save or make alternative plans. Aside from the economic factors, some of these women are struggling with ill health and disability, and have been forced to remain in work despite this (as some of them are unable to claim meaningful disability benefits because ~politics). There are hundreds of stories out there of women who are suffering because of this cruel change to their circumstances, either because of illness, stress, depression, or because of economic circumstances. A further point made by some of these women is that they are keeping jobs from other people who might need them. In having to stay in work for longer, there are less jobs available for younger people who are looking for work to move into. These women, who would normally have retired, have had to stay in position, meaning that companies have experienced a lack of movement within their work force, and a potential lack of opportunity.
And it’s not just the women themselves who are affected. It’s their families as well. Key arguments include:
1. There is no family support for childcare, so sons & daughters are having to fork out £1000s to pay for additional childcare, or they are not able to return to work.
2. Caring responsibilities for their parents have become much more difficult to manage.
These changes to the state pension age for women were cynical exercises by both a Tory and a coalition government to raise £30bn from 3.8 million women.Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party
We feel that the government thought our demographic was low-hanging fruit that they could pick off without a fightJoanne Welch, spokeswoman for the BackTo60 group.
A common theme through much of the commentary around this issue is that the powers that be thought that this would go through easily, be accepted, and there would be very little to do. What wasn’t expected was that the women this affected would mobilise, form political lobby groups, and fight the ruling for years and years, until those that had the power to change it finally sat up and took notice. There are several groups all fighting for the same thing: WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality), Back To 60, Shoulder To Shoulder, and We Paid In, You Pay Out, all fighting for the rights of 50s women. The campaign has been named one of the Top 100 Changemakers of 2019 by Big Issue Magazine.
But now their voices are being heard; national media is paying attention, and after a legal challenge was heard by a judge in November 2018, a date for a judicial review was set, something that these groups have been fighting for for years. That is where the campaign is up to now; awaiting the judicial review, explicitly fought for and won by the BackTo60 group, which takes place on the 5th and 6th June 2019.