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Increases in the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s

Published Thursday, June 20, 2019

Briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s, and the campaigns against it

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The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the State Pension age (SPA) for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020. The Coalition Government legislated in the Pensions Act 2011 to accelerate the latter part of this timetable, starting in April 2016 when women’s SPA was 63 so that it reached 65 in November 2018, at which point it started to rise to 66 by October 2020. The Government’s initial intention was that the equalised SPA would then rise to 66 by April 2020 (Cm 7956, November 2010, Foreword). However, because of concerns expressed at the short notice of significant increases for some women (as much as two years compared to the timetable in existing legislation) it made a concession when the legislation was in its final stages. This limited the maximum increase under the Act at 18 months, at a cost to the Exchequer of £1.1 bn - see Library Briefing Paper, SN 06082 Pensions Bill 2011 – final stages (November 2011).

These changes have given rise to a long-standing campaign, with some women born in the 1950s arguing they have been hit particularly hard, with significant changes to their SPA imposed with a lack of appropriate notification.

The issue has been debated in Parliament on a number of occasions. An All Party Parliamentary Group has been set up, chair of which Carolyn Harris, presented a Private Members’ Bill to Parliament on 7 September 2017, the purpose of which is to “establish a review of pension arrangements for women affected by changes made by the Pensions Act 1995 and the Pensions Act 2011; to require the review in particular to undertake costings for a compensation scheme and consider the operation of section 1(4) of the Pensions Act 2011; and for connected purposes.”

In a March 2015 report on Communication of State Pension age changes, the Work and Pensions Select Committee concluded that “more could and should have been done” to communicate the changes and called on the Government to “explore the option of permitting a defined group of women who have been affected by state pension age changes to take early retirement, from a specified age, on an "actuarially neutral basis.” 

The Government’s consistent response has been that the changes in the 2011 Act were debated at length and a decision made by Parliament, as part of which a concession was made to limit the impact on those most affected. It says it will “make no further changes to the pension age or pay financial redress in lieu of a pension.” (PQ 49721 27 October 2016). On 17 December 2018, Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, said:

  • With the Government facing increasing financial pressures, it is simply not justified to reverse these changes, especially when we take into account that women who reached State Pension age in 2016 are estimated to receive more State Pension on average over their lifetime than women ever have before. We will be making no further changes to the law on this issue. Doing so would mean working-age people, especially younger people, bearing a greater financial burden to support the rising costs of the pensions system.

More recently, the campaign group WASPI has encouraged women who think they were not adequately informed to complain to DWP about maladministration.  By November 2018, DWP’s Independent Case Examiner had concluded 192 investigations, none of which were upheld on the main element of complaint. Action on these complaints was suspended in December 2018 pending the outcome of legal proceedings (PQ 214627, 4 February 2019).

The High Court hear the application for judicial review on 5 and 6 June (The Guardian, 6 June 2019). According to one of the lawyers involved, the application to the court raised matters arising from the government policy of equalisation of the pension ages and its impact on women born in the 1950s, including the taper mechanism used to raise the SPA, in combination with a failure to properly inform women of the changes (Catherine Rayner, 7BR, November 2018).

In the event of the legal proceedings falling away, or there being no determination on the matters which formed the basis of the complaints, cases could be re-opened (PQ217138, 8 February 2019). The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (which would deal with complaints from a decision of the ICE) has also said it intends to await the outcome of the court proceedings before deciding whether to investigate.

More information

More information can be found in the following Library Briefing Papers: CBP-07286 Women and Pensions (July 2018); SN-06546 State Pension age review (August 2017); RP 11/52 Pensions Bill (June 2011); RP 11/68 Pensions Bill: Committee Stage Report (October 2011) SN 6082 Pensions Bill 2011 – final stages (November 2011); RP 95/47 Pensions Bill (HL) 1994/95: social security aspects (April 1994)

The supporting documents below show:

i) the number of women affected by the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Acts by country, region and Parliamentary constituency;

ii) how the State Pension age has changed for women with different dates of birth; and

iii) the number of women aged 60 and over claiming key out-of-work benefits for working-age claimants, from 2013 to 2018, by country, region and Parliamentary constituency.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7405

Authors: Djuna Thurley; Roderick McInnes

Topic: Pensions

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