Helen's views on Women's Pension Inequality

The effect of state pension equalisation on women born in the 1950s is an issue which has affected many of my constituents.

Labour have repeatedly called on the Government to look at transitional arrangements for the women born in the 1950’s who have been hit hardest by the changes to state pension age. However time and again Government Ministers have failed to listen to this group of women and to understand the impact that their decisions has had on these women’s lives.

The 1995 Pensions Act increased the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between April 2010 and 2020, to bring it in line with that of men. But in 2011 the coalition government moved the goalposts. They decided to accelerate the rise in the women's state pension age from April 2016 so that it reached 65 by November 2018, then rising to 66 by 2020.

Whilst Labour support the equalisation of State Pension Age (SPA) we have always stressed that changes to SPA must carefully implemented so that those who are affected are given adequate notice of the changes and have enough time to plan for the future.

In 2011, the Coalition Government moved the goalposts for women born in the 1950s by accelerating the rise in women’s state pension age. This has meant that some women did not have enough notice of changes and could not plan for their new circumstances leaving them in real difficulty.

Many of these women have faced gender inequality in their working lives, having entered the world of work without even the protection of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. Many will also have taken time out of work to bring up children, will have worked part-time, and will not have had the chance to build up pension provision of their own in the same way as men of their age. This makes it all the more difficult for them to adapt to unexpected changes to their pension age.

The former pensions minister Steve Webb has admitted that the last government made a “bad decision” on changes to the State Pension age, but he said that by the time they realised the implications “it had gone too far”. That is simply not good enough and Labour will continue to push the Government to look urgently at measures to help the women who have been disadvantaged.

You may be interested to know that in March the Work and Pensions Select Committee published a Report on the SPA.  I agree with the Report’s call to invite the Government to make up for their mishandled changes to the state pension age. It is clear there are a range of options Ministers could, and should, be pursuing, including the option of early access to a lower state pension. I also note that the Work and Pensions Select Committee has now launched an inquiry to explore the possible effects of such a policy. I will be following and supporting this.

The Government has also announced that there is to be an independent review of the future of the SPA, but that this review will not cover the existing SPA timetable up to April 2028. Given the mishandling of the acceleration of the SPA for women born in the 1950s, which has already caused huge financial worries for 2.6 million women across the country, I believe that the Government should also consider this review as an opportunity to look again at what more can be done to help those women born in the 1950s who are set to lose out.

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