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Steve Bee: No excuse for Govt silence on state pension age

steve bee

I have just one New Year’s resolution: I hope I will be able to help to ensure our state pension system survives the crisis that currently engulfs it. I want us to have a system that we can be proud of, not one we are ashamed of.

Over a million women who bore the brunt of the rapid increase in state pension ages around the turn of this century, many of whom only found out years later as they approached what they thought were their retirement years, are now deeply critical of the system.

No good can come of that, even if the government is forced into a U-turn on the policy, which the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign may bring about.

Those women, born in the 1950s, have millions of children and millions and millions of grandchildren. What message about our state pension system will trickle down the generations? It certainly will not be a positive and uplifting message – and that just seems so unnecessary.

I do not think anyone, even those most affected by the loss of tens of thousands of pounds of pension expectations, would argue against our state pension age needing to increase as we live longer. But they  are right to object to the way the communication of this major change in each of their lives was handled.

This generation of women was left to find out for themselves about the changes to their expected benefits. For many, that meant the precious time they had available to take any remedial action was denied to them.

If the Waspi women were an experiment to see how the Government could best communicate state pension age changes in future, it failed. That failure will continue to cost us dearly if the lack of communication skills within Government is not addressed urgently.

This issue is bigger than just the 1950s Waspi women. It will affect each and every future retiree in the UK. No one will know their state pension age for sure from now on. Indeed, hardly anyone knows it at the moment and, even if they do, they also need to understand that it could change many times before they reach it.

That fact alone calls for an urgent reassessment of the way changes in pension legislation are communicated to those affected.

I cannot think of any sensible reason why a government would have to pass laws and not ensure those affected are aware they have done so. I can also think of no rationale that could be put forward to justify a policy of not telling so many women about the catastrophic changes to their prospective pension entitlements that were introduced in 1995 and 2011.

We need a fundamental rethink on how the Government communicates changes in pension legislation and we need it now.

Steve Bee is director at Jargonfree Benefits


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There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. In my anecdotal experience the majority of women were perfectly aware of the changes.

    I smell selective memory. The same unfortunate condition that seems to affect many CMC users.

  2. It would be very nice if the Government had to send out a statement every 5 years advising on your retirement date and likely state pension based on your National Insurance contributions.

    I am frequently asked by clients what they might receive, how the hell do I know as it depends on their working life, employed stamp, self employed stamp, how many years they have paid.

    Why is it the industry has to produce a statement, but the Government can just opt out saying its to complex and to costly.

  3. I know exactly when my retirement date is and am fairly sure it will not change before then.
    However for much younger people you have a point.

  4. I share Sascha’s belief. I have been an adviser for 15 years, mostly advising on pensions including Group schemes.
    In my experience many women understood that their State Pension Age was being increased from 60 to 65 as a result of the 1995 Act, and any that didn’t knew exactly what their revised State Pension Age was after seeing me.
    In addition, many of the women affected are married to men who will have been facing an increase in their State Pension Age to 66, or will have had family members so affected. To believe that all the hundreds of thousands affected thought that this process only affected men seems a bit far-fetched to me.

  5. Steve, firstly i beg to differ, they have known for a long time that there state pension age would be increasing, they know it HAS too.

    Secondly it’s not unfair it any way shape or form, the only people it’s unfair too are those men who have had to wait longer all the way along, despite them paying vastly more tax and living shorter lives.

    People are living a LOT longer, the country cannot afford the state pension at 65, 66 or even 67.

    If we simply look at life expectancies and consider that the state pension is paid from current tax reciepts, it doesn;t take much in the way of math to work out that you cannot have nearly as many people retired as working and have a good pension.

    Whinge, deny and moan all you like but that odes NOTHING to change the facts.

    The facts are that without the age going up significantly the country will be bankrupt within 50 years, if not sooner.

    You cannot have people spending 18 years at school (costing money), then large numbers at Uni (still costing money), then have them work for say 44 years to age 65, then be retired for another 25 years.

    That means that they are a burden for 46 years and a contributor for 44 years!

    The numbers simply do not add up and people like yourself and thse frankly daft women need to stop trying to deny reality and get on with it.

    I am due to get my state pension at 67, I doubt i will get it then, because the age needs to go up faster to make the numbers add up.

    I can only assume your one of the numpties, who think that there is some bottomless pit of money to pay for all this denial of reality?

  6. Having been in this industry far too long, and having been to countless seminars including those that Steve Bee has presented I would say he is one of the sharpest pension people in the business and certainly not a numpty.
    I have had to tell plenty of women, over the years, that their state pension age was not 60, as they had assumed, so I agree that these changes were not communicated well enough. I also think that if we had a fair/sensible taxation system that captured the missing billions of revenue from multi national companies (and others) then we could afford a decent state pension in this country. There is a certain amount of brainwashing about this subject, by some of the mass media and politicians.
    Of course if you don’t mind not drawing your pension until you are in a nursing home, while the great and the good live it up, that’s fine!

  7. Well said Duncan – the system’s always been unfair by making men work 5 years longer.

  8. Andy Robertson-Fox 15th January 2016 at 3:55 pm

    These changes have been talked about for years but too long in bringing to frutition but I cannot help but wonder who, in 1980 when the full State Retirement Pension was £27.15 per week, believed it would be to rise in April to £119.30, except for frozen pensıoners of course, in 35 years?
    I certainly have no crystal ball to suggest what it will be in another 35 years or how it will be funded or if the frozen pension discrimination, the resoluton of which to my mind is a far greater priority than the current Waspi protests, is still a consideration; too many inponderables.

  9. Steve Bee states “I cannot think of any sensible reason why a government would have to pass laws and not ensure those affected are aware they have done so” which rock has he been living under? The DWP for decades hid the fact that if one retires to a ‘wrong’ country ones paid for pension would be frozen, not only is this an outrageous injustice because all state pensioners have paid NI contributions under the same terms but it is a lottery, some have a frozen pension some not (Canada frozen USA not) etc. I would point out that this discrimination is not a “law” because the frozen 4% have never had, unlike the 50’s women, a debate about this theft of their indexing even though for decades they have been asking for one. Welcome to the world of pension injustice ladies!

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