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Ministry playing games with women’s pensions

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DWP. FoI, womens' pensions, Women given just 2 years’ notice of state pension age rise, for example.

Millions of women have had their state pension age delayed – in some cases twice and by up to six years in total – without proper notice.

That is the only conclusion which can be drawn from the details of how they were informed of changes to their pensions which has now been obtained from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Details which show that:

The government did not write to any woman affected by the rise in pension ages for nearly 14 years after the law was passed in 1995;

More than one million women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 April 1953 were told at age 58 or 59 that their pension age was rising from 60, in some cases to 63;

More than half a million women born 6 April 1953 to 5 April 1955 were told between the ages of 57 and nearly 59 that their state pension age would be rising to between 63 and 66; and

Some women were told when they were already 57½ that their pension age would rise from 60 to 66.

The government now says that in future anyone affected by a rise in state pension age must have ten years’ notice. None of these women had that much notice. Nor did the men affected by the change.

Rising age:

The first increase in women’s state pension age was introduced by the Pensions Act 1995. The change was not to start until April 2010 and would take ten years to complete. By 6 April 2020 women’s state pension age would have been 65 and equal to that of men.

There was little mention of this momentous change at the time – perhaps because the process would not start for 15 years and it would be 25 years before women had the same state pension age as men.

A press cutting search of the 1990s found very few mentions of the pension age increase and those that were found were almost exclusively in the business and money pages of broadsheet newspapers.

The women affected were then aged 40 to 45. It is understandable that many of them, even if they read the newspapers, would have put it in the ‘too far away to worry about’ box.

In newly obtained Freedom of Information answers the DWP claims that it placed “advertorials” in women’s and TV listings magazines in 2000.

It also claimed there was a press advert “specifically about the equalisation of state pension age…in women’s magazines and national newspaper supplements”.

But when asked for details of these adverts the DWP refused to give them. It admitted it “may hold” this information but finding it would cost more than £600 so it was entitled not to provide it.

It also says the change was mentioned in some leaflets produced in the early 2000s.

But the crucial and damning admission is that it did not write a letter about the change to any woman affected for nearly 14 years after the Act was passed.

Letters:

‘Writing a letter’ is not of course the same as ‘informing people’.

The DWP admits that it could only write “using the address details recorded by HMRC at the time” and that any mailing was “subject to the accuracy of their address details with HMRC”.

Even those letters which did reach the correct destination may not have been read – “more bumph from the government” is a common reaction to such things.

And many women involved in the campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) have said they have never received a letter about changes to their state pension age even now.

Many found out from friends relatives, work colleagues, or the media. Many learned about it through Facebook or Twitter.

Detailed dates:

Information released through Freedom of Information requests by WASPI reveals that the DWP waited fourteen years after the law was passed, until April 2009, before it began writing individually to the women affected.

The first group were 1.2 million women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 April 1953.

These women expected to reach state pension age at 60 between 6 April 2010 and 5 April 2013 and were written to in turn by date between April 2009 and March 2011.

The DWP figures show that the letters were sent to women when they were 58 or in some cases 59 to tell them their pension age of 60 had been delayed.

On average they were given one year and five months’ notice before they reached their expected state pension age of 60. Some had less than one year’s notice; none had more than two.

The letter writing was stopped in March 2011 because the Coalition government was considering speeding up the equalisation of state pension age.

Those changes, in the Pensions Act 2011, were finally passed by Parliament on 3 November 2011.

The letter writing began again in January 2012.

Second wave:

The group affected by the speed up – women born from 6 April 1953 – had not been written to as part of the first wave of letters.

They were now included in a second “mailing to individuals … due to reach State Pension Age between 2016 and 2026 [which] was completed between January 2012 and November 2013”.

Approximately 650,000 women worst affected by the speed up – those born 6 April 1953 to 5 April 1955 – were written to in January and February 2012.

That means they got their letters between the ages of 57 and almost 59 that their pension age would not be 60.

In many cases that would have been the first they knew about the original change and they were now told that their state pension age was to be raised again to just over 63 years and in some cases to as much as 66.

Some of these women, of course, may have discovered themselves that their pension age had already been extended once.

For them the letters sent in 2012 arrived only between four and eight years before that revised pension date.

It told them that their state pension age was to be extended further by between two and eighteen months.

Worst affected:

The very worst affected were the 300,000 women born between 6 December 1953 and 5 October 1954 who faced that maximum extra 18-month increase in their state pension age.

We know now that they were first written to about the changes when they were between the ages of 57 years 5 months and 58 years 1 month, just before they reached 60 – giving them just 22 to 30 months to rearrange their lives.

Among that group too some had worked out that their state pension age had already been raised once.

They were told between five and half and seven years before their state pension date that a further change would push it another 18 months into the future – in all cases to beyond 65 and for some as late as 66.

Men:

Men were also affected by the Pensions Act 2011 which raised their traditional state pension age of 65 to 66.

Those born 6 December 1953 to 5 April 1955 were written to in February 2012 when they were 57 or 58, giving them between six years nine months and seven years seven months’ notice before their 65th birthday.

They were informed of a delay of up to one year in their pension age.

Notice now:

The government’s latest plan for reviewing and increasing state pension age was published in December 2013.

It set out the principle that people should spend no more than a third of their life adult life (measured from the age of 20) on the state pension.

A review would be held once every five years to work out what state pension age should be. It also promised “The review will seek to give individuals affected by changes to their State Pension age at least ten years’ notice.”

Not one of the individuals mentioned in this blogpost have had ten years’ notice. Some have had less than one year. Not one has had more than eight for the second delay.

Campaign:

The WASPI campaign wants some transitional protection for the women who are the worst affected.

Its petition has gathered nearly 35,000 signatures.

At 10,000 signatures the government had to respond – and it said it “will not be revisiting the State Pension age arrangements for women affected” after rather disingenuously claiming that “All women affected have been directly contacted following the changes.”

And the call for some transitional protection was specifically ruled out by Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann on the BBC Radio programme Money Box on 26 September 2015.

WASPI claims that if the MPs who voted in 2011 for the further rise in the state pension age had known that the women had been given such short and inadequate notice of the 1995 changes they might well have voted differently.

The Bill was passed by 287 to 242 votes after amendments about the changes were rejected by 291 to 244 votes.

Conclusion:

The DWP failed to inform millions of women about the changes to their state pension age until a year or two before the women were 60.

The DWP gave inadequate notice to those affected by the further extension of their pension age leaving such notice to between four and eight years before that further rise was implemented.

And in many cases those women did not know then that their pension age had been increased once already.

The petition needs 100,000 signatures before it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

Please sign.

And please send a copy of this article to your MP.

  1. For those of you who have been asking

    As of today, 11 January 2016:
    Don’t forget, even if you are not signed up to Facebook you can open specific pages. The Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign (WASPI) page link is here https://www.facebook.com/WASPI-Women-Against-State-Pension-Inequality-Campaign-877054125688402/

    To sign the petition go here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110776

    To see the written evidence WASPI presented at Parliament – and its a very good summary of the situation too – go here http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/understanding-the-new-state-pension/written/25211.html

  2. And we here at womensviewsonnews post articles about it on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/newsaboutwomen/

  3. Marie McCardle says:

    I have signed the government petition online about our pensions and it looks like the government have no plans to make any changes in the state pension for us women in our 50s,can anyone tell me what will be the next steps to take to fight this wrong doing on the governments part ???.

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