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