Changes to the state pension that will hit hundreds of thousands of women aged 55-65 were debated in Parliament for the second time this year on Monday. But the Government once again refused to offer extra measures to help those affected, with a minister instead suggesting that women who lose out can claim other benefits such as jobseeker's allowance.
The debate was prompted by a high-profile parliamentary petition backed by MoneySavingExpert which collected more than 141,000 signatures, and MPs crowded into Westminster Hall to debate the issue, with many attacking the lack of transitional arrangements for those affected.
The state pension age for women was due to rise from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020 but the Government decided to speed up the process in 2011.
As a result the state pension age for women is due to go up to 65 in November 2018 and then to 66 by October 2020. Many women born in the 1950s will therefore have to wait longer than expected to receive their state pensions, and some feel they have not been given enough notice to prepare.
'Other benefits available to women affected'
But work and pensions minister Shailesh Vara was defiant in the face of fierce pressure on the Government to bring in extra measures to help protect those affected.
Mr Vara said: "There are a whole lot of other benefits that are available to the women who may be affected. For example, there’s jobseeker’s allowance, there’s employment and support allowance, there’s income support, carer’s allowance, personal independence payments."
Women affected by the change in retirement age would also benefit from the new state pension, pension freedoms and even an increase in cold weather payments, he said, adding: "It is important that we look at things in a broad context."
Mr Vara's response drew fierce criticism from Labour MP Helen Jones, who led the debate. Summing up after almost four hours of debate with contributions from 20 MPs, Ms Jones said the Government's response had been "totally inadequate" and there had been a "failure to address the issues" raised.
She called for a vote as to whether or not the Government had properly considered the request made in the petition for fair transitional arrangements. The vote from the hall was unanimously "no".
However, as with the previous debate in January, which was organised by Scottish National Party MP Mhairi Black, the result of this week's debate is not binding on the Government, which can choose to ignore it.
Why will some women lose out under the state pension changes?
There are two separate increases of the state pension age currently underway:
- With the 1995 Pensions Act, the Government decided that men's and women's pension ages would be made the same by 2020. Previously, women retired at 60 and men at 65.
- In 2011 the state pension age for 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. And action group Women Against State Pension Inequality, which created the petition, claims affected women haven't been left with much time to make alternative plans, adding existing retirement plans have been "shattered with devastating consequences".
But 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).
Additional reporting by the Press Association.