We paid in, you pay out
‘Trudy from Somerset’ looks at the issues behind the pension campaign women born in the 1950s are currently fighting.
There are several aspects to the 1950s women’s pensions issue and I have broken them down here:
In the mid-1960s – early 1970s when women born in the 1950s began work and contributing to Graduated Pension and National Insurance the pension age was 60 for women and 65 for men.
From 1925 – 1940 women’s pension was equal to men’s at 65, but because women usually married men a few years their senior, it was believed that this was unfair on married men as they had to continue working until their wives reached 65, so in 1940, in fairness to MEN, the government changed the women’s pension age to 60 so the married couple could enjoy their retirement together. The government at the time showed compassion.
Nothing has changed, women still usually marry men a few years their senior.
Women continued to pay Graduated Pension contributions until it was phased out and merged with National Insurance (NI).
Paying National Insurance contributions entitled the contributor to benefits and an old age pension, unconditionally and with no means testing.
Women of the 1950s didn’t have the opportunities men had and didn’t enjoy the life-style of womenfolk of today; they didn’t even have equal pay – still don’t but there wasn’t even a law about it then – and they had no choice but to pay their contributions – by law – at the same rate as men.
So single women worked their way through life, from the 1960s/1970s making their contributions and with their employers matching these contributions, anything from 9 per cent – 12 per cent of their wages, just like men.
They entered into the pension contract in the knowledge they would retire at 60. They have paid for their pensions and other benefits as required by law, they were not expecting anyone to pay for them, they have contributed to their pensions for some 45 years and they are still contributing today.
Up until the 1970s, married women were given the option of paying the lower ‘married woman’ rate of NI, sometimes referred to as the 2p rate. This was not advantageous to women as paying it meant they would not be entitled to certain benefits and their pension age would be based on when their husband reached retirement.
But married women who married before the 1970s who opted to continue paying the ‘standard NI rate’ – the same amount as men – were entitled to all benefits and were entitled to retire at 60 in their own right.
Those who married and had children were often frowned upon if they worked; they were expected to stay at home, look after the children and become housewives, looking after their husbands and households. Men were the breadwinners, the wage earners. Mothers tended to find small part-time jobs such as dinner ladies, or cleaners, to fit in around the children’s school hours and holidays, just to add ‘a couple of bob’ to the family purse. Often these jobs were ill or under paid.
Women didn’t have the equal pay commission on their side in those days, and there was no national minimum wage, and often these jobs were short on hours and with no tax or NI responsibility.
Mothers and carers were covered by the ‘Home Responsibilities’ credits; for example mothers were covered for 16 years while they looked after their children.
So, the above are points relating to the history of women’s pensions.
That is how things were, the law of the land from 1940: men retired at 65 and their wives and single women retired at 60, in fairness to men.
Now let’s look at the present and the future shall we?
We now learn that in 1995 the government decided that the retirement ages were unfair to men and needed equalisation, and men and women would retire at the same age, at 65, reverting back to 1925 despite what we learned during the years from 1925-1940 and the resulting change in the law. This was blamed on the EU at the time, and the EU was happy with the relaxed transition during 2010 – 2020.
The government is said to have informed all those affected by this change in law personally, as is legally required, but this was not the case.
Very few women, if any, actually received any notification of any change.
This is being blamed on the fact that the government departments did not have up-to-date contact details for the women involved.
But these women still received their NI demands for payment, their self-assessment forms and their child tax credits, child benefits and their working tax credits, so this ‘absence’ of up-to-date contact information is questionable.
And so most women were unaware of this change in the law.
A change in the law which meant that women born in the 1950s would have to work an EXTRA 5 years.
In 2007 the government passed yet another law, again without properly informing women or men, saying that the pension age would increase to 66 between 2024 and 2026.
Women all of a sudden would have to work an EXTRA 6 years. Men only had to work an EXTRA 1 year.
In 2010 Labour said they would raise the pension age to 66, but not before 2024.
Again in 2010 women’s state pension age would now be raised more quickly to reach 65 in 2018 – which would breach the coalition’s agreement promise of ‘no sooner than 2020’.
In February 2011: women’s state pension would rise to 65 by 2018 and men’s and women’s pension ages would rise to 66 by April 2020.
And this is where women stand at this point in time, while men only have 1 year EXTRA to work and in fairness to men, equalisation, 500,000 women will have to wait longer than a year.
In fact 300,000 1950s women have an EXTRA 6 years to wait for our pensions despite the facts pointed out in the issues raised above.
So looking at the facts alone it is clear discrimination of women vs men. In fairness to men the law was changed in 1940, and the law was again changed in fairness to men in 1995.
Nowhere do I see any fairness to women.
All I see is discrimination.
Women earning a pittance before the equalisation of wages, and before the introduction of the minimum wage, working and paying contributions towards their pensions – but their pension being denied them at the age they were told they would receive it when they began paying for in the 1960s.
After 45 years of paying contributions, these women are still paying for their right to retire at 60 in their own right, some even paying the ‘standard rate’ NI instead of the married women’s rate.
They have paid over the top, and they have, it now seems, paid under false pretences.
If women are not going to get their pensions at the age agreed when they began paying then the government has no right to collect any further contributions.
And it is not the young paying for our pensions and it is wrong for the government to imply this. It is us.
We have paid in and we want our entitlement.
This is not a benefit.
This is something we have paid into all our working lives under the assumption that the government would honour its side of the agreement as we have done, as our employers have done.
The government has a duty of care to its people, and just now women are suffering at the hands of government policy.
It is also wrong to say the money isn’t there.
We all know that the NI pension fund should have been ring-fenced, and that the government have had their fingers in the pot as there is only £30 billion left, but that is enough to begin paying what is due to us 1950s women.
And to talk about ‘helping us’!
We don’t want ‘help’ – we want what is rightfully ours.
We don’t want to talk about ‘deals’, maybe a ‘lower rate, life-time pension to retire early’ with.
We don’t want to retire ‘early’. We want to retire at the age agreed upon when we began paying into the system 45 years ago.
And a ‘lower life-time’ rate is more discrimination. We have been discriminated against all our working lives.
To have to draw a lower rate of pension than our menfolk is utterly wrong when we’ve all paid in the same percentage sum.
It is cheaper to pay a woman her pension at the agreed date she began paying her dues, than it is to fund a young unemployed family. Release these jobs for the youngsters, allow us women to retire at the age we agreed upon when we began our journey in our working life of contributions.
Look after the women who never stood a chance of accumulating the necessary years of contributions as their caring responsibilities didn’t allow for them to work to claim these credits.
The mums who had children were allowed 16 years of home responsibilities credits but this has now changed to just 12 years.
Those who are looking after disabled children or elderly parents.
Or those who were housewives looking after their husbands and not out working, relying on their husbands NI but who have become widowed.
Many women planned their retirement so they could to look after their elderly parents or their grandchildren or volunteer in a charity shop, but this government has stripped the country of its army of grey volunteers in its greed, costing the taxpayer thousands in caring, in childminding.
And some of us 60-something ladies have been found to be in need.
Some are on workfare, working for jobseekers allowance; some have lost their dignity, lost their will to live as their old bodies are cracking up around them and they can’t cope with the hard graft day in, day out.
Some go cap in hand to the jobcentre for benefits, and some go to foodbanks, some have sold their homes.
This is degrading when they have done everything required of them all their working lives.
This is a serious matter and it needs to be addressed now, not in a few months’ time.
It needs urgent attention.
We didn’t choose to be born women and I thought discrimination against women had been stamped out, but this government has brought it back on the biggest platform ever.
This is an issue which affects every man, woman, child, grandchild, boy, girl, mum, dad, sister, brother, those in need of voluntary services.
It’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Time to pay up.
As Ros Altmann said, we were not given notice of change and have had no time to make changes to our retirement plans.
On a personal note, I was going to retire next year at 60 because I have paid the ‘standard rate’ of NI and could retire at 60 in my own right rather than paying the lower ‘married women’s rate’ and wait until my husband reached retirement age.
My retirement age would then have been 63 as my first husband was 3 years my senior.
Paying the ‘standard rate’ all these years has made no difference to my retirement age whatsoever – I find I have to work until I’m 66 no matter what.
But my present situation is slightly different. I was hoping to receive my pension at 60, not long to wait, with my 59th birthday just past.
That way my husband – who suffered a ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm a few years ago – and is finding it difficult keeping up with his full-time work, he tires easily, could have cut his hours to suit his needs when I retired next year,
But with the sudden changes in pension ages he will have to continue to work full time until he reaches 66 – or if this fatigue worsens he will have to think about claiming benefits.
So after all those years when I paid into a system believing I would retire at 60 now at 59 I find I am not to, and still this government is taking my NI contributions at the ‘standard rate’.
I wouldn’t even have been better off had I paid the ‘married women’s rate’ allowing me to retire at 63, the goalposts have changed beyond reach.
All those years paying into a system which would look after me and mine in my retirement, and the government has reneged on the deal we signed up to when we 1950s women began our journey into work 40 odd years ago.
The government owes us; they are currently in breach of contract.
And when we get the matter raised in Parliament, we got told ‘it has been discussed, there is nothing to be done’ or maybe that ‘some idea of help’ should be considered.
There is something that can be done, and we don’t want ‘help’.
We Paid In, You Pay Out.
And we women of the 1950s will continue the fight until we get what is ours by right.
Trudy from Somerset.