IAIN WRIGHT: Women need help over unfair pension changes

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If you’re a woman in Hartlepool born on March 5, 1953, you officially reached pension age last week and could start claiming your basic pension of about £116 a week.

However, if you are a woman born exactly a year later – on March 5, 1954 – then you wouldn’t be allowed to receive your pension until July 2019, a full three and a half years later than your older counterpart.

The earlier woman will have received about £20,000 more in pension than her equivalent born just 12 months later.

This all stems from the planned equalisation of the state pension age for men and women.

I don’t think anybody would have a problem with ensuring that men and women are treated equally, and the age at which both receive their state pension should be the same. Equally, on matters like this, if there is an arbitrary cut-off date, some people might lose out. That’s often unfair, but measures can be put in place to stop some of this unfairness.

However, it is the gross unfairness with which these proposals about pensions have been brought forward that cause concern.

Although the original plan to equalise the state pension age was decided as far back as 1995, the Coalition Government in the last Parliament decided in 2011 to speed up the process, ensuring that both men and women receive their pension at the age of 65 by November 2018, with a further rise in the pension age to 66 by October 2020.

This acceleration of the process has left women – hundreds, if not thousands in Hartlepool – with very little time to plan an alternative route for retirement. That, in a nutshell, is why I think this issue shows some real unfairness, and why the Government really needs to put something in place to help these hundreds of thousands of women.

I’ve had a number of women born in the 1950s come to see me about this issue. Quite understandably they feel angry and somewhat anxious about the change, at the last possible moment, which scuppers their planned retirement.

These women have done everything right in what was expected of them in regards to planning for their future.

The women who came to see me have worked since the age of 16, some half a century ago, have worked hard while in most cases bringing up a family.

These women didn’t have well-paid jobs necessarily but they worked hard and had a sense of when they could retire and take the state pension.

When the Coalition Government decided to alter that, there was very little time for these women to plan for any other form of retirement provision. They were left high and dry.

There was a debate in Parliament about this matter last week. The debate called for the Government to introduce further transitional arrangements for those women who have been badly affected by these changes.

The vote in the House of Commons was won by 158 votes to nil. That seems to be a fairly substantial victory and the Government should listen to the will of Parliament.

However, it was somehow considered a non-binding vote and the Government doesn’t have to pay attention to Parliament at all.

That seems to be against the notion of Parliamentary democracy, that the Government can somehow dismiss what Parliament votes for.

This problem will not go away. These women have done the right thing, worked hard and yet at the 11th hour, when they thought they could be on the verge of retiring, have to think about what do about their retirement with little time to plan a possible alternative.

Parliament has expressed its view – now the Government has to act to help these women.