View the article online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/article/a877452
Government rejects women's early pension access bid
The government has said it will not offer further transitional arrangements for 1950s women hit by state pension age rises.
The government has dismissed the idea of allowing Waspi women forced to wait longer for their state pension to access their pension credit early.
In another House of Commons debate on the issue, 10 MPs challenged under-secretary of state for work and pension Shailesh Vara over the hardship faced by women born in the 1950s.
The issue has been brought to light by the Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign, made up of women who have seen their pension age rise from 60 to 65 and then again from 65 to 66 in quick succession.
The first increase was passed in legislation in 1995 as part of the equalisation of men and women’s pension ages. The second increase happened in 2011 after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat coalition linked the state retirement age with increased life expectancy.
In 2011, at the last minute the government made a £1.1 billion concession in the pension age rises to ensure no woman would have to wait more than an extra 18 months for their state pension, down from two years.
Labour MP and former shadow pensions minister Rachel Reeves said further concessions needed to be made to help the women who are struggling to bridge the gap between work and retirement.
‘Many of the women we are talking about are caring for elderly parents or young grandchildren. Many have been working since they were 15 years old and very few have significant pension savings,’ she said.
‘Will the minister give them some hope and look at transitional arrangements by allowing them to draw pension credit early to help them through this difficult time?’
Vara said the transitional arrangements had already been put in place in 2011 and ‘81% of women affected will have to work no more than 12 months [extra]’.
‘There is no plan for transitional arrangements,’ said Vara.
'Women deserve the facts'
Angela Rayner, current shadow pensions minister, said 2.6 million women were affected by the changes and called on the government to provide details of what transitional arrangements were considered in 2011.
‘The least [the women] deserve is the facts to allow an honest debate,’ she said.
‘We know the government considered £3 billion of transitional protections but only allocated £1 billion... in spirit of honest and open debate, will the minister release all details for transitional protection the government has considered?’
Vara said there were other benefits available to help older women including ‘jobseekers’ allowance, earnings and support allowance, carers’ allowance, personal independence payments, and pensions will be uprated; there is [the state pension] triple lock and a simplified state pension and pension freedom that allows those with pensions to have flexibility’.
He added that women would receive £8 per week extra under the single-rate state pension that would make it a ‘fairer’ system.
Vara also criticised Labour and the Scottish National Party for not addressing the Waspi cause in their own manifestos.
‘Not one party… put this measure in their manifesto because, just to [reverse the 2011 change] would cost over £30 billion and it would cost countless more to reverse the 1995 [measure],’ he said.
The government was also criticised over the way it communicated the changes to Waspi women, many of who say they did not receive any letters or communication from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Ian Blackford, Labour MP, asked Vara whether the government was going to apologise for the ‘utter shambles made of communicating the changes’.
Labour MP David Amis also brought up the issue of communication. He said he was ‘here in 1995 when [the changes] were announced’ and wanted to know ‘has the government taken appropriate action in communicating these changes to women’.
‘The initial changes were made in 1995 and until 2010, there were at least 10 Labour pension minsters...they made no effort in terms of communicating…as far as the Pension Act 2011 is concerned, over 5 million people were written to…to the address we had available at HM Revenue & Customs,’ said Vara.
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