Imagine if you’d played the lottery as part of a group and the group won. But then some of you didn’t get the share you were expecting, despite all having put the same into the kitty. You’d be hacked off, right?
Women born in the 1950s are facing exactly this kind of raw deal, if you’ll allow me a little artistic licence with the analogy. Having paid into a system in good faith for years, as the end was in sight, the finishing post has been moved. Moved quickly, a long way, and without much warning.
And for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about one of the greatest welfare scandals of our times; the sudden and brutal change in pensionable age for women from 60 to 66.
For many women – and families – this has been catastrophic. They’ve planned and budgeted for their retirement in good faith, trusting the country and economy they’ve contributed towards to support them when they need it most, and for some of them the loss of those years of pension payments equates to tens of thousands of pounds lost. It’s brought hardship, poverty and misery to millions – and I’m not saying that lightly. It’s a fact.
…this would only be appropriate if things were ACTUALLY equal. If the pensionable age is going to be the same, let’s see an end to gender pay gaps. Let’s remove those glass ceilings
The ‘reasoning’ behind the move (apart from the obvious ‘ker-ching’) is loosely threaded around the need for equality – to bring women’s retirement into line with men’s. And of course I’m all for equality. But this would only be appropriate if things were ACTUALLY equal. If the pensionable age is going to be the same, let’s see an end to gender pay gaps. Let’s remove those glass ceilings. Let’s give women the same privileges and entitlements that men enjoy.
It’s tough for women!
As a woman in business I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for what I have. I’ve brought my daughter up as a single parent with next to no financial support from her father, who’s been happy to see Tax Credits and Child Benefit do his bit. I’ve built up three successful businesses and it’s been SO MUCH harder because I’m a woman.
I’ve not been part of the ‘boys’ club’ although I have to say, things are changing, finally. I even got invited to be part of a charity golf tournament the other day! But I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made meetings happen, for example, simply because my target thought I was a male Sam. Always enjoyed their faces when I’ve turned up.
But I digress, if only to express my solidarity. You want equality? Then do it properly. I’m 49 and in all fairness hadn’t really thought much about my pension or retirement until recently, but I am at least prepared now for the (frankly unattractive) extra slog. For many of the women a bit older than me though, it’s been devastating and I am righteously furious on their behalf. Their voices need to be heard. Here are some of their stories.
At the foot of this piece is more information about the judicial hearing and campaigning.
Can I tell you my story? I was born in 1957 – we are called ‘Baby Boomers’ which is an insult to our parents I think. We do not decide when we are born but 1950s women have worked all their lives for the UK to thrive.
I was born into a family of six children and being the eldest was a second ‘mum’ to all my siblings. I had a happy childhood, even though I had to take care of my brothers and sister, and had a Saturday job from 13 years old, as well as going to school.
When I left school on the Friday in July 1972 I started work the following Monday. I earned very little and had to pass the majority of it over to help the family. I would have loved to have gone to university, or even sixth form, but I was never allowed.
Even when they were small I found work in supermarkets, cleaning wherever was needed, any job I could do even if it was menial; I even worked when my husband had finished his work for the day
I left home and got married in October 1976 – I signed the NI1/CF9 form, which was the form to sign if you were paying full National Insurance contributions and wanted a pension in your own right at 60. I carried on with my life working, looking after my home and husband, bringing up and nurturing three children.
Even when they were small I found work in supermarkets, cleaning wherever was needed, any job I could do even if it was menial; I even worked when my husband had finished his work for the day. So not only was I looking after young children, keeping my house in order and making sure my husband had a good meal when he came home, I then went out to work after doing all that.
It was what we did, so I did it. When my children started full time education I could work for slightly longer, although at that time we did not have maternity leave and free nursery places.
I gradually increased my working time as my children grew and then was back working full time. Always paying my full NI contributions. I had a life, but always in my mind I was retiring at 60. In 2015 I was made redundant, but I had no worries as myself and my husband had a little savings and he was still working, so we could afford it with no problem. I then sent off for my State Pension forecast from DWP.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when the forecast was that instead of me retiring in 2017 – I was now retiring in 2023. I could not believe that I now have a retirement age of 66, after all those years of doing ‘what is right’, not being a burden on the state, paying for everything myself and working my whole life.
I am now 61 going on 62. I have not been able to find another job, even though I have sent many applications off, even for Apprenticeships. Our MP from the Department of Work and Pensions Guy Opperman stated that we of the age over 60 should apply: I have and I can imagine what the conversation is when they are read by the company who want a young 16/17/18 year old to train, and not a 60+ woman.
State Pension is not a benefit; we have paid into it all our working life and we would like some justice
So now I have no income and my husband is obliged to look after me (as per DWP). We hardly see each other as he has to take on more work to earn more for us to live a day at a time. Our savings have gone, our bills are going ever higher and we do not have any spare money for any of the things we had planned to do in our retirement. My husband will have to stay at work for an extra three years to be able for us to live. Our government calls this equality!
We are pensioners living hand to mouth – we are living in poverty and our human rights have most definitely been abused. State Pension is not a benefit; we have paid into it all our working life and we would like some justice regarding the £45K each and every one of the 3.8 million 60+ year olds will have lost.
The biggest pension swindle of all is being carried out by the British government. I paid into my pension for 44 years and when I claimed age 60 they said that they had changed the payment date and I would not get it until I am 66. I had never been informed of this change and they have since said they put an advert in the Times, a paper I have never read. They did not deem it necessary to inform me or any of the other ladies affected.
Us 50s women have been robbed. I have lost £42,000. I have had to downsize my family home regrettably. Suffered depression after this. Now three years later I’m starting to enjoy my home. I will have to wait till March 2020 to get my pension. I have paid 42 years National Insurance, yet won’t get full pension, as I once receive a small pension that I thought was a perk of the job. How silly of me. This was never explained.
…we are on a very strict budget just so we can eat well in the winter and keep warm. Had to cut down on lots of things. We miss our cheese selections and meals out
I’m 61 and I’m not working at present because I’m looking after my disabled husband. I’ve worked ever since I left school. Had a hard time at work, the usual aches and pains. Went off work sick and then resigned due to the way I was treated – younger staff preferred. My hubby gets £3.74 a week for me. I no longer shop at Marks and Spencer’s or use my local shops, as we are on a very strict budget just so we can eat well in the winter and keep warm. Had to cut down on lots of things. We miss our cheese selections and meals out. If I had my pension that money would be put back into local businesses. We would be able to enjoy the simplest of things again.
I believe myself and many other women have been scammed out of our state pensions. I started full-time work in 1972 at the age of just 15. In a low paid and menial job without the qualifications to do any better I paid into the NI with the understanding that I would get my state pension at 60. I now gave to work until I’m 66. I’m lucky in that I’ve managed to get work with the NHS, but only on a contract, and still low pay. I’ve had a terrible education and spent much of my life educating myself and have ended up with an MA. I’m bitter and angry about the betrayal of my country towards us women, some of whom are really struggling financially.
Please support the women who have been duped and expected their pension at 60!! I was born in July 1955, I have worked all my life even between treatments for cancer to make sure mortgage was paid. I had to leave work due to further poor health recently and now we have to sell our home to survive. There is no justice… I feel well and truly ‘ripped off’. There are many others in dire straits due to having no notice given to us; stressed, anxious and with nothing left. It was not just 18 months added to our age, in most cases it was six years, and mine is such a case.
I am a 1950s born woman who will not receive her pension until 2021. I started full time work at 16 and paid National Insurance with the knowledge I would retire at 60. I have worked most of my life apart from when my children were small as I took a little time to care for them and went back to work as soon as I could.
My husband is unskilled, however he could earn more than I could so I only worked low pay part time to look after the children. We struggled all our lives, bought our own house with interest rates at 16% and an endowment which spectacularly failed.
It mostly affects low paid women working part time. We made sacrifices as a family to do the right thing and now I have to work an extra six years
Both of our children went to university and we supported them the best that we could. When my son was old enough I increased my hours to full time and joined the pension scheme. Unfortunately as this is NHS I was contracted out which means I get a lower pension eventually. This was never explained to me. Apparently the loss was supposed to be made up by our work pension but recent investigations show us to be worse off. Due to fybromyalgia and arthritis I had to reduce my hours in work and I now work four days, so less workplace pension too.
Women have been unfairly treated all our lives; only those with a high level of education and good jobs don’t feel the effect of these pension changes. It mostly affects low paid women working part time. We made sacrifices as a family to do the right thing and now I have to work an extra six years to get my pension, and no matter how hard or long I work I will never be able to replace the £48,000 I have had taken away by these changes.
We are now selling our house and are going to live with our daughter to fund our retirement as I will be leaving work at 64 years of age. I am so tired and worn out. I am lucky to have this option; some don’t and have been left destitute. This is a national scandal and government ignore it as it was never about equality, it was about money.
CAN THIS BE CHANGED?
There are a number of fierce campaigns to fight this change, including the notable WASPI women (Women Against State Pension Inequality), and the BackTo60 movement, backed by Michael Mansfield QC. But it’s more complicated than it at first looks, and most of the coverage you read will delve into the details surrounding the implementation of the age rise and how it was effected unfairly.
But its roots go far further back. In 1986, it was Margaret Thatcher’s government that ended the Treasury contribution to the National Insurance Fund that has now deprived 3.9 million women born in the 1950s of their pensions for up to six years. Ironically she could now be their saviour.
She ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 1979 (CEDAW) and it’s this decision that commits the United Kingdom to outlawing not only any discrimination against women who are unfairly treated, but demands reparations for the people who lost those rights. And it also provides a mechanism to deliver the money to 50s women without facing a legal challenge from any other group – whether it be the pensions industry or anyone else.
So although there will be challenges and questions to face surrounding the appalling mishandling of information and notice, the #BackTo60 group are going in hard with the CEDAW angle. And whilst there is a great deal to understand about CEDAW and the implications, in a nutshell, with the backing of politicians, something called a ‘Temporary Special Measure’ could be effected, based on a claim of inequality, that could work positively in the women’s favour.
The campaigns argue that the notice given to women born in the 1950s and early 60s was implemented unfairly, with little or no warning. And that the changes have been implemented too quickly, leaving women and families with no time to prepare, leading to shattering consequences. This discrimination could give them the leverage they need.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
On 5 and 6 June 2019 there will be an historic judicial review hearing in the High Court, to identify whether 3.9 million 1950s-born women have been cheated out of their state pension by the Government. The government will have to answer whether the decision to raise the state pension age from 60 to 65, and then again up to 66, amounts to both age and equality discrimination.
The big row here is that the government claim that everyone was told this was going to happen in 1995 but millions of women refute that. The government also states that its unlikely to reverse its decision, and indeed seems committed to bringing the retirement date up to 67 by 2028, citing the fact we live longer lives and of course the need for ‘equality’. What is certain is that the hearing this week will bring some uncomfortable questions, and some victories around the claims brought could effect some changes. What those changes will be remain to be seen.
UPDATE MAY 2020
Following the publication of this article in June 2019, there have been developments, so we’re updating this now.
The judicial review was held in June 2019, and in October 2019 the High Court rejected the claim that the legislation breached the European Convention on Human Rights, amongst other issues, including that there was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex, another argument brought by the campaign. The Backto60 campaign raised money publicly to bring an appeal and this is now to be heard on 21 July 2020. The WASPI campaign is separate to this, and has approached the case in a different way.