Council backs call for fairer deal on pensions

By Chris Derrick in Charity

South Hams Council is fighting for a fairer deal for women who will be affected by Government changes to their pensions.

The significant loss of income to women who were expecting their pensions at 60 will have a knock-on affect on the local area, councillors have been told.

It is estimated that up to 4,000 women and their families in the South Hams will be adversely affected by the Government changes to the Pensions Act – including 49 women members of staff at South Hams Council born between 1950 and 1969.

In a motion to the Government, the council said: ‘With this in mind and the wider South Hams female population, the council calls upon the Govern­ment to make fair transitional state pension 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 with lack of appropriate notification.

‘Hundreds of thousands of women had significant pension changes imposed on them by the Pensions Acts of 1995 and 2011 with little/no personal notification of the changes. Some women had only two years’ notice of a six-year increase to their state pension age.

‘Many women born in the 1950s are living in hardship. Retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.

‘Many of these women are already out of the labour market, caring for elderly relatives, providing childcare for grandchildren, or suffer discrimination in the workplace so struggle to find employment.

‘Women born in this decade are suffering financially. These women have worked hard, raised families and paid their tax and national insurance with the expectation that they would be financially secure when reaching 60.

‘It is not the pension age itself that is in dispute – it is widely accepted that women and men should retire at the same time. The issue is that the rise in the women’s state pension age has been too rapid and has happened without sufficient notice being given to the women affected, leaving women with no time to make alternative arrangements.

‘The council calls upon the Government to reconsider transitional arrangements for women born on or after 6th April 1951, so that women do not live in hardship due to pension changes they were not told about until it was too late to make alternative arrangements.’

Councillors supported the campaign by Women Against State Pension Inequality after a plea by Cllr Nicky Hopwood.

She said: ‘Members, it is not often that one brings a true life story to this chamber but I thought the best way to make you aware of the importance of this motion was to tell you about a constituent in the ward of Woolwell which I represent.’

The woman’s story is as follows:

‘I was born in the 1954 and have been quite severely affected by the increase to the State Pension Age (SPA) for women as a result of both the 1995 and 2011 Pensions Acts.

‘The total loss of pension income for me is approximately £40,000 at today’s prices and my SPA has been increased by five years and 11 months. 

‘The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that it did not write to women affected by the 1995 Act until 14 years later, in 2009.  However, these letters were halted in 2011 because the Government was planning to make further increases, so only women born up to 5 April 1953 were written to in that round of letters. DWP started writing to women born after April 6, 1953, in 2012.

‘I received my letter in 2012, aged 58 years, that my SPA would be July 2020 at age 65 years and 10 months. 

There are 2.6 million women in the country affected by these reforms and many are suffering severe financial hardship.

‘Many women, like me, had only two years’ notice of a six-year increase to their state pension age.

‘WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality – has been campaigning for the Government to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s and their e-petition recently gathered over 193,000 signatures in support. 

‘There is cross-party support for the call for transitional arrangements and an All-Party Parliamentary Group was established in May to consider options.

‘I believe that the significant loss of income to women who were expecting their pensions at 60 will have an adverse effect on our local area. 

There will be less disposable income and there are many women having to sell their homes, claiming housing support and/or finding they need to claim ESA or JSA in their 60s to survive. 

‘Not all women are able to continue working due to ill health, caring responsibilities for parents and/or grandchildren, redundancy, etc.

‘In the South Hams area this will affect up to 4,000 women and their families.

‘On a personal level, for example, my part-time contract in the NHS will finish at the end of October this year. My husband has taken early retirement due to ill health.

‘Therefore we will have to draw down extra income from his private pension, alongside my small NHS pension, so that we can manage to meet all our financial commitments until we reach state pension age in 2020.

‘The consequences of this will reduce our spending into the local economy and will curtail our hobbies and leisure activities, because we will not be able to afford to continue with them.

‘It will also reduce our income long term due to the additional drawdown from my husband’s personal pension provision.

‘Also, I am concerned that this will have an adverse affect on my health, especially my mobility, as I have been advised to swim to reduce the need for a knee replacement.

‘I cannot see how I will be able to continue this regular exercise as there will not be any surplus money every week after paying household bills. Therefore I am concerned that surgery will more likely be needed.

‘Our quality of life is going to be significantly affected over the next three to four years due to this change in SPA, and the lack of notice.

‘If there had been, at least, the 10-year notice period which the Government recommends our outlook would have been far more positive.’

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