The petition of residents of the Rhondda,
Declares that the 1995 Pensions Act has been implemented unfairly; further that Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), agree with equalisation, but don’t agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented—with little/no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans; further that retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences; and further that hundreds of thousands of women have had significant changes imposed on them with a lack of appropriate notification.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make fair transitional arrangements for all women born on or after 6th April 1951 who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age (SPA).
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Chris Bryant, Official Report, 27 April 2017; Vol. 624, c. 1187.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Damian Green):
The pension system, along with the whole welfare system, needs to change to reflect the reality of today. In recent decades we are living longer, and we are able to work for longer as we become healthier.
The equalisation and acceleration of State Pension age for both men and women was necessary to ensure the system’s sustainability in light of increasing life expectancy and increasing pressure on public resources, and the package now in place is balanced and affordable.
The changes to the State Pension age began with the gradual equalisation of State Pension age at 65 for both men and women, which was first set out in the Pensions Act 1995. This was necessary to meet the UK’s obligations under EU law to eliminate gender inequalities in social security provision.
The increase of the State Pension age to 66 was set out in the Pensions Act 2007 and due to increasing life expectancy the Pensions Act 2011 accelerated this process to allow for a rise to 66 by 2020 for both genders and provided for the equalisation of the State Pension age to 65 by November 2018.
During the 2011 Pensions Act the Government made a concession which slowed down the increase of the state pension age for women so no one would face an increase of more than 18 months compared to the increase as part of the Pensions Act 1995. Transitional arrangements at a cost of £ 1.1 billion were made in order to lessen the impact of these changes for those worst affected, and for 81% of these women the increase will be no more than 12 months. This concession benefited almost a quarter of a million women who would otherwise have experienced delays of up to two years.
Reversing the 1995 Act would be unaffordable—costing a minimum estimate of £77 billion. Without equalisation, and in 2010, women would spend on average 41% of their lives in retirement with a State Pension age of 60.
These changes were fully debated and voted on in 2011 when legislation was before Parliament, and all those affected by increases in State Pension age by the 2011 Act were written to in the period between January 2012 and November 2013.
The Department for Work and Pensions provided a range of additional information in order for all individuals to find out their State Pension age and the conditions of their benefits. Since April 2000, the Department has provided more than 14 million personalised State Pension estimates to people who requested them either online, via telephone or post, and encourages people to request these State Pension estimates as part of ongoing communications.
In addition, employment maximises people’s opportunities to build up savings, helps to maintain social networks, and is beneficial to health provided the employment takes into account the person’s broader circumstances. For most people work is beneficial not only because it provides an income, but also because it also gives individuals greater control over their own lives, and independent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that the rise in women’s State Pension age since 2010 has been accompanied by increases in employment rates for the women affected.
For those who struggle to find employment and where people need it, there is a safety net in place through the welfare system.
Supporting individuals aged 50 years and over to remain in the labour market and tackling the barriers to them doing so is a key priority for this Government. By the mid-2030s the number of individuals aged 50 and over will represent over half of the UK adult population and employers increasingly need to employ and retain the skills and experience of older workers. To support these individuals the Default Retirement Age was abolished, so individuals can retire when it is right for them, and the right to request flexible working was extended.
This Government are deeply committed to ensuring that employers are aware of the wealth of skills and experience that older workers bring to the workplace, and on 4 October the Government announced the appointment of the Business in the Community Age at Work leadership team led by Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK and Ireland Life, as Business Champion for Older Workers. Mr Briggs and this team of employers will spearhead the Government’s work to support employers to retain, retrain, and recruit older workers.
Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches have the flexibility to offer all claimants, including older people, a comprehensive menu of help which includes skills provision and job search support. Work Coaches undertake extensive training before taking up the post, and build up a wide range of skills and in-depth labour market knowledge, and additional training modules are available for Work Coaches when they deal with older claimants to support them more effectively and in understanding the challenges older claimants face.
Older Claimant Champions were introduced, in April 2015, in the seven Jobcentre Plus Regional Groups to tackle the barriers faced by older claimants in getting back to work. Older Claimant Champions work with Jobcentre Work Coaches—and other staff—to emphasise the importance of supporting older claimants, share best practice and challenge out of date perceptions to support this group of people.
Where there are health conditions or disabilities, the Department has published the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper which looks at ways of better joining up the health, welfare and employment systems to support those seeking work as well as those in work. A Carers in Employment pilot has been established across nine Local Authorities to explore how businesses can give employees with caring responsibilities more help, for example promoting flexible working patterns and setting up carers surgeries to help carers manage their caring responsibilities alongside their paid work.
In addition to increasing employment prospects for women above the age of 60, this Government have introduced the New State Pension. The system in place for people who reached their State Pension age before 6 April 2016 was extremely complex and the new State Pension brings greater clarity by helping people to understand their State Pension more easily. It is also much more generous for many women who have been historically worse off under the old system. On average, women reaching State Pension age last year get a higher state pension over their lifetimes than women who reached State Pension age at any point before them, even when the acceleration of State Pension age is taken into account. And, by 2030, over 3 million women stand to gain an average of £550 extra per year as a result of these changes.
The New State Pension works hand in hand with Automatic Enrolment, enabling many more people to save in a workplace pension. And, combined with reviews of the State Pension age, these measures are designed to form the main elements of a sustainable basis of retirement income in the decades to come.
The Government have already made transitional arrangements for those most affected by changes to their State Pension age and introducing further concessions cannot be justified given the imperative to focus public resources on helping those most in need.