Controversial changes to the state pension which will hit hundreds of thousands of women aged 55-65 will be debated in Parliament next year. It comes amid growing support for a rethink of the changes, with a major petition backed by MoneySavingExpert gathering a further 24,000 signatures in just three days.
Parliament's Backbench Business Committee has confirmed a debate led by the Scottish National Party MP Mhairi Black has been scheduled in the chamber of the House of Commons for the afternoon of Thursday 7 January.
Despite the sharp rise in support, the debate isn't being held as a direct result of the petition, which was organised by the action group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) and calls for "fair transitional arrangements" to protect those who will be hit financially.
The changes mean women born in the 1950s will have to wait longer than expected to receive their state pensions and many feel they have not been given enough notice to prepare for them.
Ms Black applied separately to the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on the issue after being contacted by a constituent and then hundreds of others concerned about the shake-up. The committee has time outside government control in which it can schedule subjects for debate suggested by backbench MPs such as Ms Black.
Support for the WASPI petition has snowballed this week. On Monday MoneySavingExpert and its founder Martin Lewis pledged to support it, we featured the campaign in our weekly email and there's been much wider media coverage of the WASPI campaign and parliamentary lobbying too.
Some 24,000 have added their names to the petition since Monday – you can add your name here – and 79,000 have now signed it in total. Parliamentary petitions which reach 100,000 signatures are highly likely to be debated in Parliament, subject to approval by a cross-party committee of backbenchers.
Why will some women lose out under the state pension changes?
There are two separate increases of the state pension age currently underway.
- Under the 1995 Pensions Act, the Government decided the pension ages of men and women would be equalised by 2020. Previously, women retired at 60 and men at 65.
- In 2011 the state pension age for both men and women was raised to 66.
These changes mean women born after 5 April 1950 will receive their state pensions later than expected – in some cases six years later.
Many women who had been expecting to start drawing their state pensions between 2016 and 2020 only found out in 2011 – with the additional change in state pension ages – that they would face a delay.
Some women have argued they weren't informed of the rise in their state pension age at all. The WASPI groups claim women affected haven't been left with much time to make alternative plans – and that existing retirement plans have been "shattered with devastating consequences".
However the Department for Work and Pensions says it did take appropriate steps to notify women of the changes and insists "all women affected have been directly contacted".
Which age brackets are most affected?
The date on which you'll receive your state pension depends on exactly when you were born – the Government has published full state pension age timetables here. But in brief:
- Women born after 5 April 1950 are affected by the equalisation of the state pension age to 65 (following the changes in the 1995 Pensions Act).
- Women born between 6 April 1953 and 5 October 1954 are affected by both the equalisation of the state pension age to 65 and the rise of the state pension age to 66.
- Women born between 6 October 1954 and 5 April 1960 will see their state pension age rise to 66.
- The next rise in the state pension age, to 67, will apply to men and women born after 6 March 1961 (and be phased in for those born between 6 April 1960 and 5 March 1961).
Last month Sarah Pennells, founder of SavvyWoman.co.uk, warned in a guest comment on MoneySavingExpert.com that many of those affected have been left with little time to try to plug their savings.