David Hencke Report | BackTo60 for 50's Women
#BackTo60 for 50’s Women #OneVoice Sign Our petition (sign here) to demand the return of our earned dues.
Our Mental Wellbeing survey (click here) uncovered the depths to which #50sWomen have sunk since having their State Pensions swiftly, twice deferred, by stealth.
Our two documentaries (view our Youtube here) gave a voice to #50sWomen who spoke for themselves and then delivered all the aforementioned to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.
Earlier, we participated in the APPG Consultation which we suggest is loaded towards Transitional Arrangements: thus we attach our Report written by an award-winning investigative journalist, Mr David Hencke to be included in our submission.
BackTo60 is simply what is states, the return of our earned dues, in full and without conditions.
We have successfully Crowdfunded to determine a legal avenue and we are working towards it.
We look forward to receiving the APPG Report.
This report has been commissioned by the Backto60 group to look at the desperate plight of millions of women born since 1950 who have found that they will have to wait up to seven more years to get a state pension.
Originally they expected to receive it at 60. Now it is nearly 65, it will be 66 in 2020, 67 from 2026 and 68 from 2037.
The official number of women affected is 3.48m - according to the Department of Work and Pension [Reference
FOI 717 8th March 2017] –including those who will have to wait until they are 66.
The savings to the Exchequer were £30 billion for the rise in the age from 65 to 66 in 2011 Act and tweaked to £29 billion when the government made a small concession delaying the rise from April to October. The figures covering the effect of the 1995 Act make this much higher with the phasing in of the rise in the pension age from 60 to 65.
[Reference House of Commons Library briefing paper CBP-07405, 30 November 2017: State Pension age increases for women born in the 1950s]
While this makes a huge saving for the Treasury – the disproportionate burden falling on this group of women is enormous. The present National Insurance Fund – which pays out pensions on a pay-as-you-go basis - is in surplus and is predicted to remain in surplus until 2030-31 – when either national insurance rates will have to rise or the Treasury will have to contribute to pay the pension bill. The details are in the last quinquennial review by the Government Actuaries Department.
The move from surplus to break even is calculated on the rise in the pension age. So today’s women pensioners are losing out to offset increases that won’t happen until 2030. It assumes the UK will remain a relatively low wage economy so NI contributions will not rise enormously. The report also indicates that the government’s policy on immigration to reduce the level to “tens of thousands” will also impact on this as there will be fewer people paying NI contributions which in turn could trigger raising the pension age still further to break even.
The effects have been severe. The House of Commons library briefing paper records a big increase in the number of women aged over 60, who have enough national insurance contributions to claim benefit, against a trend of a big drop in claims for the under 60s.
“Between August 2013 and August 2017 the total number of people claiming either JSA or UC fell by around 551,000 – equivalent to a fall of around 42%. The total number of both male and female claimants fell over this period, as well as the number who were aged 55-59.
In contrast, the number of women aged 60+ claiming benefit increased by around 9,500, a 115% increase.
The number of women aged 60+ claiming Employment Support Allowance also increased August 2013 to August 2017, by around 121,000 (a 413% increase).”
And these figures do not cover the full effects as they are only up to the age of 63. The report also says:
“The falls in household incomes caused by the reform have pushed income poverty among 60 to 62-year-old women up sharply (by 6.4 percentage points compared to a pre-reform poverty rate among women of this age of 14.8%).”
It complacently goes on say that no evidence has been found to show that this age group is suffering by not being able to purchase necessities or is materially deprived. So are they coping?
The findings by a survey commissioned by Backto60 suggest the Commons library did not do much homework.
The survey of over 13,000 women who lost out produced disturbing evidence of the effects of taking away £29 billion from almost 3.5 million people. The most alarming findings were the figures for self-harm and suicide attempts.
It revealed that over 1200 people had self-harmed. 176 had frequently, 621 occasionally and 469 once.
Suicide had been contemplated frequently by 758, occasionally by 2,545 and once by 1026.
Some 85 percent of people said their retirement plans had been very negatively affected; 63 percent felt their well being had been very negatively affected; 36 percent felt relations between family and friends had been very negatively affected; 58 percent felt their self-esteem had been very badly affected; and 80 percent felt their finances were very badly affected.
Some 58 percent thought they would die earlier. But these are statistics.
A Tragic Personal Example
The personal stories are worse. One person who has contemplated suicide is Pamela Satchwell, a 64-year-old widow, living in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire. She spent 10 years caring for her sick mother and then her husband, a welder, who was injured in a scaffolding accident. He died. Then six months before she thought she was due her pension she discovered by writing to the pensions service that instead of picking up her pension she would have to wait 3 or 4 years before she would get it. She had no private pension having worked as a self-employed teacher at a private school.
Then she was hit again by the raising of the pension age to 66 and will not get her pension until April 2019.The mortgage had not been paid off so the building society moved to repossess her terraced house. Only an intervention by a welfare rights group persuaded them not to go ahead and allow her to sell it. But it still left a shortfall. Fortunately for her the builder who bought it to convert it into two flats, let her rent one flat from him and she can claim housing benefit.
She applied for ESA but ATOS ruled she did not qualify for benefits. A judge overruled them when it came to court. According to her ATOS did not even turn up at court to defend their decision.She suffers from depression. “I sometimes wonder whether it would better if I had died rather than my husband. She has become agoraphobic and frightened about leaving the house.
“Often it is a choice between heating and eating. I borrow money from friends but know I can’t pay it back.”
She says she never received a letter from the DWP telling her that her pension would be delayed until she wrote to the pensions service herself. There are other cases of hardship – numerous people having to sell their car, their jewellery, and one woman in Scotland couldn’t repair her boiler so was left without central heating for a year, including winter. Given that these are the same people who have suffered pay gaps while they bought up families, suffered lower wages because of the gender pay gap and received lower occupational pensions as well as reducing their state pension entitlement they are being doubly penalized for having to wait longer for a state pension.
The Scandal Of The Delayed Letter
The original decision was taken by a Conservative government in 1995 but it was never communicated to the all people affected until 2011 – up to 16 years later. Yet the government because of the contributory principle has everybody’s national insurance record. The issue was debated in Parliament – but it was a pre-internet era – so coverage was confined to the broadcast and print media.
The reason for not doing this has been suggested as a cost saving. I am told Dame Anne Begg, a former disabled Labour MP, has suggested at a private meeting that it may have been political, as it was in the run-up to a closely contested general election in 1997, and informing people they would face a big delay in getting their pension would not have been attractive to 3.48 million voters.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee, chaired by Labour MP Frank Field and which supports the raising of the pension age, nevertheless concluded in 2016:
“We will never know how many women did not know, or could not be reasonably expected to know, that their state pension age was increasing. What is apparent with hindsight is that previous governments could have done a lot better in communicating the changes. Well into this decade far too many affected women were unaware of the equalisation of state pension age at 65 legislated for in 1995. While the last and current Governments have done more to communicate state pension age changes than their predecessors, this has been too little too late for many women, especially given increases in the state pension age have been accelerated at relatively short notice. Many thousands of women justifiably feel aggrieved. “
[Reference: HC899 House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Communication of state pension age changes Seventh Report of Session 2015–16 ]
The failure to do so compares extremely badly with the private sector. If a bank changes the terms and conditions of your account or interest rates, it writes to all its customers. It does not expect them to follow the news automatically.
Bank accounts are changing this month because of an EU directive – and letters have been sent out to customers. Even well-informed MPs are unlikely to know the details of the EU changes to their bank account without receiving a bank letter.
The Arguments Against Lowering The Pension Age
The arguments are well rehearsed – increasing longevity – general rises in pension ages outside the UK – intergenerational fairness and austerity means we can’t afford so everyone must make sacrifices.
The original projections that we are forever going to live longer and longer appear to be starting to be challenged. An article in the Independent on 28 December 2017 – using the latest official figures – suggests that the continual rise has begun to flatline – and the projected rises in longevity are being revised downwards. [Reference http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/uk-life-expectancy-drops-2058-government-cuts-austerity-nhs-national-health-a8131526.html ] And this is before the generation that has been obese – a life-shortening experience – reach pension age.
One private insurance and pensions company Legal and General has already worked out it will have a windfall as people die faster.
More recently an article in The Times [Reference: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/life-expectancy-falls-by-a-year-in-several-regions-of-england-prwcdgzvl ] has shown that life expectancy has already started to fall in some reasons. This isenouis enough for Public Health England to start some local research. So conventional wisdom may be wrong on this.
The second argument that the retirement age is only going to go up is also being challenged. Membership of the EU- which will no longer apply soon- says that there should be a progressive move among the 28 countries for equality in social security between genders. But it does not demand that the retirement age must go up.
Most EU countries have been increasing the retirement age – but not at such a rate as the UK. Austria, for example, does intend plan to raise the retirement age to 65 (the same as men) but phase in until 2033. Some others countries plan to equalise the retirement age at 67, phased over a number of years. None has any plan to raise the retirement age to 68 except the UK. [Reference: Commons library report as above]
Now two EU countries – Poland and France – are planning to reverse plans to raise the age and return to 60. Poland has already done it as Reuters reported on 1 October 2017.
France put up the retirement age to 62 in 2010, President Mitterand planned to reduce it to 60 and it has been suggested that President Macron – while raising the retirement age for occupational pensions such as rail workers– may now cut it back to 60. Either way the UK according to the OECD has the shortest retirement age and the lowest state pensions in Europe.
There is also the argument about intergenerational unfairness. This is refuted below.
The Arguments For Lowering The Pensions Age
The argument that women over 60 are part of a group of wealthy pensioners who are feather bedded while the young are facing the brunt of austerity falls apart when the role of active pensioners are examined.
For a start, the voluntary sector would probably collapse if it were not for the role of older people in charities from guides round National Trust properties to helping organisations raise money and work with disadvantaged people. They cannot do this if they are expected to be in full-time work.
Those with families often play big roles as grandparents – babysitting for their grandchildren and taking them out. This strengthens intergenerational links. Those who have money do provide financial support for their children including help buying their first home or their first car.
Equity release – by mortgaging their homes to an insurance company – will further deny future generations of having an inheritance.
This huge social network will be lost by this measure – either they will be too poor to do it or they will be at work, if they can get a job.
Employers are not necessarily keen on taking on older people who tend to be less computer savvy and more at risk of becoming seriously ill when they can get energetic young people to do the work for the minimum wage or as an apprentice.
Some people in their 60s have taken up apprenticeships but at wages of £3.50 hour – less than half the minimum wage – it is hardly a serious financial proposition.
The Great Equality Myth
Everyone is in favour of equality. But the treatment of women born in the 1950s and their rights to a pension has been anything but equal.
The toxic combination of a double deferment of the state pension age – first through the 1995 Act and then again in 2011 - to get what is one of the meanest pensions in Europe has been a disaster for this group. It is compounded by lower pay than men, missing years through bringing up children, getting lower occupational pensions than men, and also suffering a discriminatory system in the past over mortgages and NI contributions.
Women born on April 5, 1950, got a pension 60 years later on April 5, 2010. Women born just two years later on April 5, 1952, had to wait until 6 March 2014. Women born on the same date one year later in 1953 had to wait until 6 March 2016.
And for those unfortunate enough to be born on April 5, 1954, will have to wait until 6 September 2019 before they get their pension. They are among the group hit by the double whammy of pension withdrawal and it will only get worse as the age of retirement rises to 66.
While they wait for their pension single, divorced or widowed women often have no other source of income or they are relying on their husbands and partners who provide for them as they have no money of their own. It is often a choice of eating or heating or raiding the equity on their house to survive. That is why this greater inequality must end and end soon.
The Failure By The Political Class To Tackle The Problem
The Conservatives when David Gauke was works and pensions secretary are committed to an ever-rising pension retirement age and to cutting the associated benefits already paid out to existing state pensioners like the heating allowance. He showed this by speeding up the raising of the pension age to 68 and by telling journalists at a press gallery lunch that he would review existing heating payments (and possibly free bus passes).
The Labour Party – while not officially committed to a policy – has floated the idea of giving a reduced pension from the age of 64 to those affected. The problem is that this would mean a reduced pension for life.
Debbie Abrahams, the party’s shadow works and pension secretary put this forward last September
The Liberal Democrats have suggested a flat £15,000 tax-free payment to all women pensioners caught in this situation.
None of these tackles the problem, given the enormity of the loss for this group of people which amounts to £29 billion.
Failure to take action to deal with this problem is a time bomb at a time when the electorate is very volatile. The House of Commons Library briefing provides a spreadsheet (see below) so it is possible to trace where the majority of aggrieved women are and break it down to the level of individual Parliamentary constituencies.
This can be downloaded from the House of Commons library as an attachment according to the report. Any competent campaigner could use this information to press individual MPs to take a stand on this. There is a very strong case to redress a very serious wrong to a group of people who are suffering through no fault of their own.
Author | David Hencke
David Hencke is an award-winning investigative lobby journalist based in Westminster. He has had over 40 years experience in journalism – in local newspapers, specialist publications, national newspapers, radio, TV and social media. He specialises in detailed investigations covering institutions, individuals, waste, fraud, corruption and mismanagement across the public and private sector.
He was a journalist on the Guardian for 33 years, 23 of them as Westminster Correspondent for the paper. He has won nine wards - four of them British Press Awards – for his investigations which included the cash for questions scandal in 1994 and Lord Mandelson’s hidden home loan in 1998.
His most recent British Press Award in 2012 followed an investigation into tax avoidance by the former head of the Students Loan Company which led to changes in personal contracts for 2500 civil servants in Whitehall.
He is an author and joint author of four books including two unauthorised biographies of Tony Blair.
He is a former member of the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee in implementing the Freedom of Information Act and is currently a member of the independent panel, under Bishop James Jones, which is investigating 100 unexplained historic deaths among the elderly at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire and is due to report this year.
He is a former chairman of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.