The claimants applied for permission to appeal on 16 October 2019, which was of course yesterday. Hon. Members will therefore understand that I cannot comment on live litigation.
Thousands of women across my constituency and millions nationally continue to face real hardship from this inequality. What steps is the Minister taking, in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions, to address their real concerns and distress and to provide equality?
I thank the hon. Lady for this opportunity to comment on the wider picture. As the Minister for employment with responsibility for jobcentres, I would tell anybody experiencing hardship at any point in their life to go to the jobcentre and to speak to their local citizens advice bureau—[Interruption.] The jobcentres do so much more than help people into work. They are a place of safety if you are suffering domestic violence, if you are looking to get support on benefits or if you are looking for housing support. It is a severe frustration for me as the Minister that people simply do not understand that jobcentres do much more than help people into work.
Yesterday, along with many other colleagues in this House, I met a group of 1950s women who have been affected by the changes to the state pension age. Having been silenced while other groups took legal action, they are frustrated that they are still no further forward. What concrete actions will the Minister now take to help those women and give them the justice they deserve?
I appreciate that this will look and feel frustrating to many women because of the legal action and the live litigation, but I absolutely believe that we are trying to find a balance in our Department in supporting people of all ages at all points in their lives when they need support and ensuring that we are balancing an ageing demographic and a secure retirement.
I am grateful to the Minister for those replies, but notwithstanding the High Court decision and the appeal, there are thousands of women in my constituency who were born in the 1950s and who are affected. They find the support and advice measures that have been put in place inadequate, and I ask the Minister to liaise with the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to look again at this issue.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I absolutely understand that this is about a sense of balance. I reiterate my point that we have a wide range of benefits and support in the jobcentres—[Interruption.] Well, if the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) disagrees, I would be happy to meet her to say more. It is absolutely right that if the support is not there, people should come to the jobcentres, speak to me and get involved with the DWP. We will support these women. This is ultimately about equality. We now have no defined retirement age for anyone: anyone who can work can continue to do so, and for anyone who wants to have a secure retirement, we will support them.
As a WASPI woman, may I say on behalf of the many women who have come to me about this matter that we have been caught in a sandwich generation? We had our children young and brought them up, then acted as carers looking after our mums. This is causing big problems for women caught up in this dilemma. They are now finding themselves in the job market, having had very disrupted careers. That is what is so difficult for those women, when they are suddenly being asked to retrain in their 60s. It is really causing big problems.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. The women issue and the work journey are absolutely a priority for me in this role. Universal credit is not a gender-specific fund. It focuses on individual needs and support, and that can be different for men and women. I am absolutely determined, in this role, along with the new Secretary of State, to ensure that we better reflect the women’s work journey, including returning to work.