Politics and lies

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.

DWP

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

 

4 comments

  1. I’m one of the women affected and yes, it was widely reported in the press, but only AFTER the event. Initially it was going to be introduced for a younger age group, thereby giving the younger tranche of women time to make alternative pension arrangements. I’m one of those who never had a letter from DWP advising of the change. I only knew because I checked my projected pension via the DWP website. What’s even more worrying though is that I have since talked to women younger than me, women in the early to late 50s who are STILL expecting to get their state pension at 60! And the majority of people who I speak to that are older than me are amazed I don’t get a state pension at the moment (I’m 62). Something went very wrong with both how this decision was arrived at, and publicised. I entered into a contract at age 16 with the state, I would work and pay national insurance and they would give me a pension at age 60. Then they changed the rules (for UK women but happily supported lowering pension ages for both men and women in other EU countriies!) and said I would not get my pension until I was 65. Then they changed the rules again and said, no, you know what, you can wait till you’re 66. I’m now living off savings and casual work as I’m not well enough to work full time but not ill enough to be eligible for any kind of sickness benefit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying life but I am having to watch every penny and hope that nothing major goes wrong with the house in the next 4 years. Hopefully the Judicial Revue is the start of rectifying this catalogue of errors.

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    • Thank you for your comprehensive response, Savannah. I’m 62 too, and very angry at the support for a lower age in other EU countries. My French colleague will draw her pension at 62. I believe that either Poland or Romania put their qualifying age nup but then reduced it again after public protest.

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    • But over 2 million women were not aware, Jim. The majority of the reporting, by the Governments own admission, was in the financial pages in the press, and furthermore, the majority of press adverts were in The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, none of which could have claimed to have the largest female readership. The Govt’s own working parties have reported such a lack of information was wrong. I’m sure there are a great many women even today who do not read newspaper financial reporting. The Goverment pension website incorrectly still showed women’s retirement age as 60 right up to January 2016, so those who heard there were changes and sensibly checked out their pension age were badly misled. The DWP claim, but cannot show evidence of any letters being sent prior to 2009. During the late 90s I was bringing up a family, working full time, studying for professional qualifications and helping to support my mother who was in the early stages of dementia. I had little time to read anything other than that related to my studies and work. Many women in the same age bracket were in similar position. The point is that, for something which would have such an enormous impact, there should have been specific notification explaining how each individual would be affected. Each year we receive notification of our tax allowances and code for the forthcoming year and yet this is something which has a far lesser impact on the majority of people. The documents I mentioned show a total lack of will by the Government to ensure that women were aware of such monumental change.

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