Another Lincolnshire Highlights news story…
Increases in the state pension age have left women across Lincolnshire claiming they’ve been forced into an old age of poverty, despite working hard all their lives.
Around 3.8 million women in the UK have been forced to wait up to an extra six years before they can claim their pensions after changes were made to bring women’s retirement age in line with men’s.
Women in born in the 1950s have been particularly affected, as many say they expected to retire at 60 – and haven’t have enough time to prepare for the change.
The issues began as a result of the 1995 Pensions Act, which initially increased the female state pension age from 60 to 65. The change was initially set to be phased in between 2010 and 2020.
But then in 2010, the coalition Government then announced it was introducing the the new qualifying age of 65 in 2018, earlier than planned.
The state pension age for both men and women is now set to be raised to 66 by October 2020.
Bett Johnson, 65, is typical of the thousands of women across the county who have had their pension delayed. She told Lincolnshire Live that it was only after she requested a pension forecast, 11 months before her 60th birthday, that she discovered she would not be receiving her pension until she turned 66.
She said: “I started work when I was 15 and back then women weren’t allowed to pay into a private pension scheme.
“I’ve always worked in retail and so I was able to get a little part time job in a fashion shop, but at 65, I’m shattered.
“I suffer from fibromyalgia, muscle condition which means that you have pain all over your body. The only way of managing it is to pace myself. So if I know that I’m working one day, I’ll have to rest and do nothing the day before to make sure that I can cope with the work the next day.
“After work, I go straight to bed. It’s been a nightmare trying to find work and I’m absolutely shattered.
“We had no notification, no warning. If I hadn’t asked for a pension forecast, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I’m lucky that I’ve had my husband to support me but I know many single women haven’t been as lucky.
“I’ve lost £45,000 over the last five years. Women my age are being told that they should apply for an apprenticeship – who on earth is going to hire a 60 year old woman for an apprenticeship?!”
‘I was forced to sleep in my car’
One woman, 61, from Boston, who wished to remain anonymous, has been forced to sleep in her car because she could no longer afford to pay the rent.
She said: “I found out three months before my 60th birthday that I would not be receiving my pension.
“I took voluntary redundancy at 59 believing that I would only have a few months before I would be able to draw my pension.
“When I found out, I was horrified. I’m a single woman and have nobody around to help support me. I’ve been forced to use food banks. I am currently on Universal Credit but my monthly payments aren’t enough to cover my rent so I’ve been sleeping in my car until I am able to find a place to stay I can afford.
“I’m absolutely devastated. I never thought that I would be in this position in my 60s. I’m 64 and sleeping in my car! I really don’t know how much longer I can go on.”
Pam, 64, from Alford, feels that people have forgotten about the inequalities of the past that are still impacting women today.
She said: “I do feel that women have been treated unfairly.
“I started working as a nurse in 1973, and was lucky in that I was able to pay into a private nurses pension. When I had my first child, I wasn’t able to go back to work at the same level of pay or do the same number of hours because I had to take care of my children.
“Lots of people have forgotten what is what like back then, and in some ways still is. I had to look after my children, then elderly relatives and then grandchildren.
“Women often had to work part time or very minimum hours and therefore don’t have the chance to accrue savings.
“I’m lucky in that I have a small occupational pension and I have my husband to help me but I know that it isn’t the same for everyone. If I had to carry on working, it would have killed me.”
‘I can only look forward to a fearful existence’
Denise Taylor, from South Witham, was told by the DWP that she would not be entitled to any benefits because her husband is already in receipt of his state pension.
She said: “I had worked in secretarial roles since I was 15, and eventually trained to be a legal executive.
“Unfortunately my husband and I could not have children, so I focused on my career.
“The legal profession has always been male dominated, and was certainly so then. This was brought home to me by things like not being allocated a secretary like my male colleagues, being told, as I was a woman, I could do my own typing. Also not being given the same salary or perks as the men, such as company pension scheme or private medical insurance.
“I gave up work to look after my elderly grandparents, but was able to go back to work part time after they sadly passed away.
“By this time my father in law had passed away and we were caring for my elderly mum in law. My health too was deteriorating, and it was so hard to just manage my own disability, let alone look after mum, and work part-time. My husband took early retirement to basically look after both of us, giving me the extra support I needed.
“At this point we were sure that I would be retiring at 60 and we had worked out the finances accordingly.
“Then in 2014 I had a nasty shock, the company I worked for was re-organising, and I would either have to increase my working hours or leave.
“I could not work the hours they wanted, so had to accept redundancy. I can well remember the HR lady saying, ‘well it’s OK for you, you will be drawing your pension soon.’
“It was only when I contacted the job centre that I was told that I would not be able to retire until I was 66.
“I was also told that because I had been working only part time for the past 10 years I would not be entitled to claim Job Seekers Allowance; and that as I had a husband (who by now was in receipt of his State Pension) he would have to support me as our savings and his earnings from his work pension took us over the threshold that would entitle me to any type of benefit.
“I’m so angry because I have worked all my life and we have saved instead of squandering our money.
“Instead of being able to enjoy a quiet, relaxing retirement, I can only look forward to a fearful existence, and having to try to care for my husband as he grows older and his health deteriorates.”
‘After a lifetime of serving this country and it’s people I can’t even afford to buy my grandchild birthday cards or presents’
Another woman told Lincolnshire Live she feels ‘let down’ by the government after a lifetime of paying in.
She said: “I was born in 1956 and I am having to wait 6 more years for my pension than I was expecting.
“I served in the Royal Navy until my first daughter was born, then took part time jobs until my youngest daughter was at secondary school. It was around this time that I found out that I wouldn’t get the pension I had been promised by the government.
“I then went to university (finishing when I was 50) and achieved a BSc Hons to return to work full time in the NHS. I had to retire from the NHS due to ill health.
“I have a small navy pension and a small NHS pension which together come to approx £560 per month.
“So after a lifetime of serving this country and it’s people I can’t even afford to buy my grandchild birthday cards or presents. To say I am bitterly disappointed is putting it mildly.”
Campaigners from the Backto60 group have recently taken the government to the High Court for a judicial review into whether women born in the 1950s were ‘appropriately communicated’ the rise in state pension age.
Trish McGregor is the co-ordinator for the Lincolnshire WASPI group (Women Against State Pension Inequality) and said: “The Government say that they adequately informed all women affected by the state pension increase, but it was recently proven in a judicial review that this is simply not true.
“Women born in the 1950s have been treated unfairly and unjustly. It’s not just about equality but also addressing the fact that women have not had equal opportunity to accrue full state pension nor the opportunity to accrue a private pension.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided more than 20 years ago that it was going to make the State Pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality, and this has been clearly communicated.
“We need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a State Pension so that it is sustainable now and for future generations.
“The Government has thoroughly reviewed the options for equalising the State Pension age, listening to concerns along the way.
“We have already introduced transitional arrangements, costing £1.1 billion. This concession reduced the proposed increase in State Pension age for more than 450,000 men and women, and means that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the original 1995 Act timetable.
“By 2030, more than three million women stand to gain an average of £550 more per year through the introduction of the new State Pension. At least 80 per cent of women reaching State Pension age before 2030 stand to receive more under the new State Pension than they would have done under the previous State Pension system.
“Women retiring today can still expect to receive the State Pension for more than 22 years on average – around two years longer than men – because of their longer life expectancy.
“Means tested support is available, if needed, for anyone experiencing difficulty.”