Imagine this: the Government passes a major piece of legislation which will affect 3.8 million people and cost each of them tens of thousands of pounds, but fails to tell any of them. When those people realise what has happened, they are told, ‘Tough’!
This really happened.
Breaking my own self-imposed blog-ban on political comment, I am incensed to read yesterday’s report that secret documents which clearly show that the Government’s consistently deliberate failure to communicate changes to the state pension age, have been revealed. The initial 1995 change increased women’s pensions from age 60 to 65. A further rise to 66 was announced in 2011. These changes have affected millions of women, including hundreds of thousands of women born in the 1950s who found out about the changes with as little notice as 18 months before their 60th birthday. Others had a few years, but nowhere near the notice that the Government’s own rules say is necessary.
Successive Governments have failed to address the issue.
The Department of Work and Pensions have claimed all along that, in 1995, leaflets were sent out to all women who would be affected by these changes. It now transpires that just 47,000 were printed and these were sent to independent financial advisors, not individual women. Seriously, how many women almost 25 years ago had their own IFA? How many do today?
A couple of years later, it was suggested that an individual statement should be sent out with P60s at the end of the tax year, but Conservative Peter Lilley, Social Security Secretary at the time (who had actively promoted the changes), rejected the proposal as unnecessary. The subsequent Labour Government spent £6.5 million in 2001 on advertising, suggesting the need for a second state pension. No mention was made of those women who were about to lose six years of pension payments.
Another document shows that ministers saw no ‘pressing need’ to run a campaign to inform women of the changes. So they didn’t.
An astonishing FOURTEEN years after legislation had been passed to change the pension age, it was not until 2009 that were the first letters sent directly to the women affected. There was just one year before the revised rules came into being. Despite this, the Government’s pension website continued to display the wrong information for some years. I got my own letter telling me that I’d get my state pension at age 66 in February 2012, only AFTER I had taken early retirement expecting my voluntary redundancy payment to last me until the pension kicked in – my 60th birthday. The Government’s own Commons Work and Pensions Committee has said that the details sent out about when people will get state pensions and how much they are worth were “inadequate” and “confusing”.
Women in particular find it hard to get work once in their 60s. This has led to a number if them having no choice but to be totally, financially dependent on men. What a backward step. Others, who are working, are prevented from helping out with childcare forcing young families into using expensive childcare which, ironically the Government helps towards the cost of in terms of Universal Credit or Child tax credit. No-one seems to have looked at the cost savings in not paying pensions against the cost of these benefits. I am fortunate to work for a company that values experience and has nothing against older workers, and as HR Advisor, I’d soon stamp down on negative treatment, but not all employers are as enlightened. I’ve heard managers in senior positions actively discourage the HR department from putting forward older candidates. Perhaps the worse comment…”Spare me from middle aged women talking about grandchildren and what they’re cooking for tea.”
Few will not understand the reasons for extending the working years, (although a group called ‘Back to 60’ secured a judicial review to look into doing just that*), but surely none can understand why a Government could be so callous as to not tell the people that this would affect. Government – what a total waste of space (as if we needed reminding).
*The review took place last month. No outcome has yet been published. WASPI, the group campaigning for compensatory payments to women who were not notified of changes to the pension age, have not asked for a return to pensions at 60.
Read more: David Henke (2019) A Department in Disarray