Will we get a fairer state pension deal for women?

A recent Saga article claims that the battle to give women a fairer deal over their state pensions scored a significant victory early in January, when it was the subject of a House of Commons debate. Although the debate had no power to directly alter government policy, it represented yet another important step in bringing the campaign into the public eye and gathering support from politicians.

A campaign group known as WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) has been fighting to bring justice to hundreds of thousands of women who are facing delays in receiving their pensions from the government, saying that women born in the 1950s – specifically those born on or after 6 April 1951 – have faced two increases to their state pension age, which until 2010 had remained at 60 for several decades. WASPI states that many of the women affected by the 1995 and 2011 pension law changes face an unfair double delay in becoming eligible for their pensions.

WASPI’s campaign is based on the contention that successive governments have not done enough to inform those affected of these delays, and that the 2011 reforms are being implemented too quickly. This has resulted in many women being given too little time to plan their retirement finances, the group says.

In the debate, members of the House of Commons voiced concern that the acceleration of state pension age equalisation directly discriminated against women, adversely affected retirement plans and caused “undue hardship” in some cases, with many women facing difficulty as a result of lower pay and careers interrupted by bringing up children. From the Government benches it was stated that there are currently “no plans to alter state pension age arrangements” for the women affected by the equalisation of eligibility ages and without change, our current state pension arrangements will simply not be financially sustainable. It was also suggested that hardship was avoidable as people were given notice of the change, allowing them to plan.

The debate is likely to put pressure on the government to respond in more detail to WASPI’s requests for fairer transitional arrangements. Financial journalist Paul Lewis, who was quoted during the debate, commented:

“It was gratifying that so many MPs from all parties broadly supported the campaign and that the information which the WASPI women and I have extracted from the DWP was widely quoted. Sadly, even a 158:0 vote for the motion to give some transitional help is not binding on the Government and no hint of change was given by the Minister. But the pressure is certainly on the Government and we can only hope that it is at least looking again at what, if anything, it might do.”