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

Published Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Briefing regarding the WASPI campaign and the impact of legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s

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Background

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 will now reach 65 in November 2018. The equalised SPA will then rise to 66 by October 2020. The reason was increases in life expectancy since the timetable was last revised.

The Government initially intended 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) the Government 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).

WASPI

Some women born in the 1950s argue they have been hit particularly hard, with significant changes to their SPA imposed with a lack of appropriate notification. The campaign Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is calling for “fair transitional state pension arrangements,” which they say translates into a ‘bridging pension’ paid from age 60 to SPA. Its petition, currently on the Parliament website calls for:

[…] a non-means tested bridging pension for women born on or after 6/4/1950 who are affected by the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts and compensate those at risk of losing up to around £45,000, to also give proper notification for any future changes.

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 issue has been debated in Parliament on a number of occasions and an all Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women  has been set up to “hold the government to account on the issue of transitional arrangements to compensate 1950s women who are affected by changes to the state pension age and to campaign on issues around the state pension age.” Most recently, on 30 November 2017, the House voted by 288 votes to 0 to approve an SNP motion calling on the Government to improve transitional arrangements (HC Deb 29 November 2017, c410).

WASPI has produced information to support women who think they were not adequately informed to complain to DWP about maladministration: WASPI.co.uk/action

In September 2018, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman gave an update on how these complaints had been handled:

  • In January 2017, the ICE Office took the decision to bring a lead case into investigation in order to familiarise itself with the issues underpinning the campaign. This investigation concluded in June 2017 – the ICE did not uphold the complaint. Whilst the Office has had no additional resource to deal with the WASPI campaign complaints, a dedicated team of investigation case managers was established (from within existing resources) in October 2017 to investigate this group of complaints. The ICE Office aim to complete investigation within 20 weeks of starting work on a case, the WASPI related ICE reports that had been concluded to date have been completed within an average of 9.75 weeks. To date, the ICE had not upheld any case specific complaints that DWP failed to provide adequate and timely information relating to the increase in their State Pension age. All final ICE reports explain how the complainant can escalate their complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Office. (PQ 169408 7 September 2018)

The WASPI Board said in August that following a period of internal dispute, it was in a position to get the campaign back on track and restore “proper governance, transparency and accountability.” (WASPI website, 10 August 2018).

In September 2018, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman gave an update on how these complaints had been handled:

In January 2017, the ICE Office took the decision to bring a lead case into investigation in order to familiarise itself with the issues underpinning the campaign. This investigation concluded in June 2017 – the ICE did not uphold the complaint. Whilst the Office has had no additional resource to deal with the WASPI campaign complaints, a dedicated team of investigation case managers was established (from within existing resources) in October 2017 to investigate this group of complaints. The ICE Office aim to complete investigation within 20 weeks of starting work on a case, the WASPI related ICE reports that had been concluded to date have been completed within an average of 9.75 weeks. To date, the ICE had not upheld any case specific complaints that DWP failed to provide adequate and timely information relating to the increase in their State Pension age. All final ICE reports explain how the complainant can escalate their complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Office. (PQ 169408 7 September 2018)

The WASPI Board said in August that following a period of internal dispute, it was in a position to get the campaign back on track and restore “proper governance, transparency and accountability.” (WASPI website, 10 August 2018).

The Government’s position

The Government argues 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; HC Deb 15 November 2016 c48WH.)

Pensions Minister Guy Opperman reiterated the Government’s position on 8 February 2018. He concluded by saying:

The key choice a Government face when seeking to control state pension spend is to increase state pension age or pay lower pensions, with an inevitable impact on pensioner poverty. The only alternative is to ask the working generation to pay an even larger share of its income to support pensioners. I believe that successive Governments have made appropriate but difficult decisions to equalise and increase the state pension age. A significant concession was made in 2011 so that no woman will see an increase to her state pension age of more than 18 months, relative to the 1995 Act timetable. To renege on our decisions and further increase costs to the public, especially the working population, would be unfair and unaffordable. (HC Deb 8 February 2018 c1693-4; See also the Government’s response to the WASPI petition).

Private Members’ Bills

Two Private Members Bills have been presented to Parliament on the issue in the current Parliamentary Session:

  • Carolyn Harris MP presented the Pensions (Review of Women’s Arrangements) (No. 2) Bill 2017-19 to Parliament on 7 September 2017, on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women. Its purpose 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.” It is scheduled to have its Second Reading on Friday 23 November 2018.
  • Peter Bone presented the Pensions (Review of Women’s Arrangements) Bill 2017-19 to Parliament on 5 September 2017. It is scheduled to have its Second Reading on 15 February 2019.

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 spreadsheets below show i) how the State Pension age has changed for women with different dates of birth; and ii) the number of women affected by the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Acts by country, region and Parliamentary constituency.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7405

Authors: Djuna Thurley; Richard Keen

Topic: Pensions

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