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Devon County Council letter on Women's Pensions

Below is a letter sent from Devon County Council to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions regarding state pension arrangements for women.

 


 

 

Democratic Services & Scrutiny Secretariat

 

 

 

County Hall

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP

Topsham Road

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions 

Exeter

Caxton House

Devon

Tothill Street

EX2 4QD

London

 

SW1H 9NA

 

 

 

7 October 2016

Dear Secretary of State

STATE PENSION ARRANGEMENTS FOR WOMEN

In common with many Authorities throughout the country, Devon County Council has been invited to support the campaign calling for fairer transitional arrangements for Women in receipt of a State Pension who were born on or after 6th April 1951,  and was subsequently asked to adopt the following Notice of Motion placed before it.

‘The Council calls upon the Government to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for all women born on or after 6th April 1951, who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age (SPA) with lack of appropriate notification.

Hundreds of thousands of women had significant pension changes imposed anthem by the Pensions Acts of 1995 and 2011 with little/no/personal notification of the changes. Some women had only two years notice of a six-year increase to their state pension age. Many women born in the 1950's are living in hardship. Retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.

Many of these women are already out of the labour market, caring for elderly relatives, providing childcare for grandchildren, or suffer discrimination in the workplace so struggle to find employment. Women born in this decade are suffering financially. These women have worked hard, raised families and paid their tax and national insurance with the expectation that they would be financially secure when reaching 60. It is not the pension age itself that is in dispute - it is widely accepted that women and men should retire at the same time. The issue is that the rise in the women's state pension age has been too rapid and has happened without sufficient notice being given to the women affected, leaving women with no time to make alternative arrangements.

The Council calls upon the Government to reconsider transitional arrangements for women born on or after 6th April 1951, so that women do not live in hardship due to pension changes they were not told about until it was too late to make’.

The Council recognises that the Pensions Act 2014 provides for a regular review of the State Pension age and that any review should be based around the idea that people should be able to spend a certain proportion of their adult life drawing a State Pension. While acknowledging that the first review must by completed by May 2017 (which would take account of a range of factors relevant to setting the pension age including life expectancy) and that Government might then choose to bring forward changes to the State Pension age, it was understood that Government was not currently planning to revise the existing timetables for the equalisation of State Pension age to 65 or the rise in the State Pension age to 66 or 67, although the timetable for the increase in the State Pension age from 67 to 68 could change as a result of a future review. 

This is of course a national issue and the responsibility of Government. While Councils are not in a position to directly influence the impact of the Pension Changes or able to take any direct action to ameliorate any difficulties that may be experienced by individuals it is entirely possible that there will be some individuals who will, in due course, seek additional support from local Councils’ under local community welfare support schemes, benefits or council tax relief as a result of reduced incomes.    

Therefore and further recognising that a number of Councils locally had expressed support for this campaign (particularly in relation to the apparent lack of notice or understanding of the change and when they would become effective and calling upon Government to reconsider proposed arrangements so as to avoid undue hardship for individuals as a result of changes which they did not have sufficient time to plan for or secure alternative pension arrangements) the County Council resolved , formally, to approve the Notice of Motion and make representations to the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions – hence this letter.

A copy of this letter has also been sent to all Devon Members of Parliament - in the hope that they will also see themselves able fit to support the Council/campaign.

I also attach to this letter some background information received  from members of the public, in the form of case studies or personal histories as to how SPA changes may/have affected individuals.  

Yours sincerely,

R C HOOPER

Democratic Services & Scrutiny Manager

 

A Personal Story

‘Over 50,000 women in Devon were born in the 1950’s. This is the story of one of them (Mrs B, from West Devon) I understand that you may have received a great deal of information regarding the history of WASPI, however, I thought I would write to let you know how the SPA changes have personally affected me and my family.

I was born in July 1954 and worked as a registered nurse for the NHS all my working life in total around 37 years with only two short breaks for maternity leave.

In 2009 my husband took early redundancy so with his "works pension" secured we took the opportunity to move to France. I was aware that the women's SPA had changed and was under the impression I would receive my state pension at the age of 62. Of course this loss of my pension was a consideration in our plans but we thought we could manage to plug the gap for 2 years by using our savings.

However the second changes made in 2011 to the age I would receive my pension were a much more serious blow to our finances. I was never informed personally of these changes the first information I came across was via the online petition which led to the WASPI campaign. In 2012 I contacted the DWP and received confirmation that this was indeed true my pension age would now be 65.5 years. I was 59 and there was no way I could start a private pension scheme or due to living in France find suitable work.

Due to various family circumstances we have now returned to the UK, to Devon.

Whilst we are not destitute our finances are tight and our savings are dwindling, this of course affects our spending power and our financial contributions to local shops & charities.

I have looked into returning to work as a nurse but as my 'registration' lapsed whilst living in France I find this is not straight forward, it involves a period of study in a university and a long period of supervised practice, which I agree is quite right to ensure good patient safety. However this would not guarantee me a suitable job at the end of this re training compounded by several factors including living in a rural community with no public transport to get me to & fro, my age and my stamina.

I have looked at claiming benefits but find I am not eligible for any.

Depending on my husband financially has affected my self esteem, for the first time in my adult life I am financially dependent on someone else which is difficult for me as a previously independent woman. It saddens me we can not help our children or grandchildren financially.

I truly worry for our health in the future, for example dental and eye care or should we need a care home we will have no savings left to pay for ‘them.

Thank you for taking time to read "my story".’


The experiences of a Mrs C from South Devon demonstrating how difficult it is to find work when in or approaching your 60’s.

“For myself and my husband who is approaching his 67th  birthday this situation is not what we planned or envisaged.  

I didn't have the luxury of employment with private pension until my last child became a teenager.  This is when I could find employment outside of office cleaner, shop assistant, oven cleaner in superstore etc., and became a Teaching Assistant at a Comprehensive College where the local education authority had a private pension plan. 

This was something I embraced for 12yrs before leaving in 2012 due to health issues.

I was then 58 years and found out  my pension age was going to be 65 years 4 months 23 days.  I'm a 1954 baby and am appalled at the steep rise in the amount of time added from the previous birth year to wait for my pension.

My health issues are, to a degree, being sorted; an MRI in 2012 showed degenerative lower spine that is irritated by walking up stairs, carrying anything over a certain weight.  It is something I have to personally manage alongside a degenerative bone in my neck I believed caused by a fall I had at home in 2011. Treatment for neck is ongoing at present, some five years later.  I also had minor bowel surgery in 2013.

What employer would employ me?  I could be retrained I suppose, maybe a receptionist but what about the days I wake up with whiplash headache from the fall I had at home?  

I'm now 63 years on my next birthday in February!  I also help out when I can - being with our grandson, collecting him from nursery (soon to be school this September), while his parents are busy working (thankfully) enabling this country's economy to thrive, and pay their mortgage.

Surely paying 1950's ladies their State Pension is socially more prudent than making the young people of this country go onto benefits, take their skills elsewhere or, heaven forbid, feel so worthless that their mental and emotional health becomes a burden to the system."

A Real Life Situation - ‘Ms S from South Devon explains how one family's childcare arrangements have been affected by SPA changes

‘I am 61 years and have now worked for over 45 years, paying National Insurance Contributions.

I had hoped to retire at 60 years of age (in 2015) to be able to spend more time with my 3 young grandchildren before they grow up. My granddaughter has just been diagnosed with Type I diabetes at 7 so I have tried to help my family as much as I can. I was notified in 2012 by a short letter that I my new State Retirement date has been increased by 6 years. I will now retire in 2021. This also affects my family as grannie to 3 young grandchildren as my children struggle to find childcare during school holidays and I can’t help out. I spend all of my work holidays helping out with childcare as it helps my family who have to work.

I will explain a little about my circumstances and why I want to be well when I retire, I brought up my two children as a single parent. I worked all through their childhood as I wanted a good future for them, (they are both successful and work full time). I also cared for my mother who had a dense stroke and was in nursing care before she died in 2013.

I was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in 2009 and was very lucky to have fantastic care at my local hospital. I now know to value each day and want to spend time with my family while I am still well and healthy. My health is good at present but I am not sure what is around the corner (my father died at 66 years of age of cancer, a year after receiving his pension).

By working another 6 years I will have lost at least £35,000 in pension payments, for someone who has lived on a low income throughout my working life I feel this is unfair treatment. I had hope to retire and take up voluntary work in schools teaching children to read.

Mine is one of many stories of how women who have worked hard throughout their life, supported family and continue to support parents, children and grandchildren but now find they have to continue to work for another 6 years before they can retire. I do wonder how many women of my age will not live to receive their pension although they have contributed all their life’“

A Mrs H demonstrates how many 1950’s women are facing the possibility of selling their homes to live until their SPA is finally reached

‘This is my story of how the movement of the State Pension Age has drastically affected my life. I was born in 1954 (June).  I was medically retired from Royal Mail in 2004, at 50 years of age, with a preserved pension payable from my 60th birthday in 2014.

I had received a letter from DWP informing me the state pension age was to be increased, that my pension would commence on 6th September 2018, however in Feb 2012 (just 2 years before I was originally due to retire) I received another letter informing me that I would now not be entitled to my pension until 6th March 2020.

In March 2013 my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, at the time I was working at a local caravan park where the owners allowed me to bring my husband along to work so that I could keep an eye on him while I worked, I knew though it was only a matter of time before his condition progressed to a level that would mean I would have to give up work , which I did at the end of May 2014. 

Of course in the expected run of things, I would have now been entitled to begin collecting my state pension, instead I found myself having to give up work to care for my husband with only his state pension, attendance allowance and a small occupational pension my carer's allowance and a small preserved pension.  We have just about managed to get by, but this is not how we expected and  planned for it to be.

This summer we found that my husband's condition had progressed to a level that made it necessary for him to spend 2 days a week in day care at a local care home.  We had to have a complete a financial assessment (this was not done until he had been going to day care for 8 weeks) they found that my husband was liable for the whole of his respite care.  The unfairness of the assessment and the total disregard for the fact that his income has largely to keep us both (in the absence of my state pension) has meant that we have had to cancel his day care and of course the 'rest days' for me (the first I have had since my husband's diagnosis 3.5 yrs ago).

In all probability the time will come when I can no longer manage my husband's care at home and I know that when that happens they will take all his income to pay for his care.  With no state pension of my own until 2020, I will no longer be able to afford to stay in our home, or have to rely on benefits or both’.

Women in their early 60’s often volunteer to help good causes in their communities but have been unable to do so due to the need to work or find work: Mrs S from East Devon says.

‘The lack of notice of changes to my SPA has caused utter chaos in my life. My dreams for my retirement have crumbled. I am left trying to scrape a living together.

It was my intention to spend a lot of my time and energy supporting the Air Ambulance service. I really value the work they do in terms of assisting with emergencies but also the important work they do offering work experience and other community work. I would dearly love to assist their fund raising activities but instead I have to spend my time keeping a roof over my head and food on my table.’

The Report of the Works and Pension Committee concluded http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmworpen/899/89902.htm

“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.” Communication of state pension age changes. Paragraph 29 (2015)

This lack of notice has left 1950’s women with no time to prepare for a loss of expected income of up to £40,000. The impact of this is very dependent upon individual and family circumstances but few can stand to lose this amount of income with ease and many are in dire financial circumstances.

We appreciate that this is a national issue but one with massive implications at a local level. Fair transitional arrangements would do much to mitigate these implications.

A Personal View

I qualified as an Allied Health Professional (AHP) in 1977 and have worked in the Health Service since then except for maternity leave. In all those years I have never claimed sickness benefit or job seekers allowance.

I am now 62 and at present working 14.5 hours a week, fixed term contract until November 2016. Prior to December 2015 I was working full time as a specialist AHP in Oncology. My present role is based in the community and involves lifting & transporting heavy equipment, for weighing people in wheelchairs in their own home or in nursing homes. Working as an autonomous practitioner is very stressful job emotionally and physically, involving supporting patients, relatives and carers. This does not only apply to my present post in the community, but also to my previous post in Oncology based in the Acute hospital setting, where in addition to my specialist role, I had team management responsibilities.

I have osteoarthritis in my knees & hands and the heavy lifting aggravates these problems. 5 years ago I was unable to walk for 6 weeks and was advised that due to the loss of cartilage in my knee and advancing osteoarthritis (due to my age) I would need a knee replacement in the future. I have through physiotherapy and low impact exercise, mainly swimming, managed to maintain my mobility and avoid surgery so far. I am concerned that continuing with this type of work will affect on my health and my mobility. I have been advised to swim to reduce the need for a knee replacement, following a period of time when I was unable to walk or drive, as stated above. I cannot see how I will be able to afford to continue my regular exercise/swimming when my contract ends.

2 years ago I was advised by Occupational Health at work that due to the stress of my job unless the stress levels could be reduced I would “burn” myself out in 6 months. Some changes were made but my health still suffered and I had frequent throat/ chest infections and high blood pressure. Changing my job to the temporary part time post has reduced my blood pressure and I do not have repeated throat infection.  I am struggling at work because of ongoing my health problems and this is not helped by the high stress levels both in my job and the stress of not being able to retire when I expected.

My husband has taken early retirement due to ill health. So that I can stop work and we can spend some quality time before our health deteriorates further, we have had to take the decision to drawdown extra income from his private pension, alongside my small NHS pension to ensure that we can manage to meet all our financial commitments until we reach State pension age in 2020.The consequences of this will reduce our spending into the local economy and will curtail our hobbies and leisure activities, because we will not be able to afford them. It will also reduce our income long term due to the additional drawdown from my husband’s personal pension provision.

I  worry all the time now how we will be able to manage until I receive my SPA at 65 years and 10  months and 11 days!, however I cannot continue to work in an environment which is causing additional health problem and adversely impacting on our quality of life. 

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