Much has been written over the last few weeks about the issues surrounding women’s state pensions ages and the activities of the campaigning group Waspi. There are some very strong views held on both sides of the debate with little middle ground.
After careful consideration I signed the Waspi petition. It wasn’t that I felt there was any case for opposing equalisation. In my view there is no rational argument against that objective. It also wasn’t because I believe the communication of these changes has fallen far short of what was needed.
At this point I should mention that my wife is one of the women affected, so I have seen just how poor the timing and quality of the communication has been.
The reason I signed it was I was aware there was a group of around a quarter of a million women who, if things stay as they are, will have been unfairly discriminated against.
They are the group of women born between 6 April 1953 and 5 January 1954 for whom the changes introduced in the 2011 Pensions Act were unjust.
As an example, it’s intended that a woman born on 5 April 1953 will reach SPA on 6 March 2016. A woman born on 6 April 1953 won’t reach SPA until 6 July 2016.
These four-month increases in SPA continue for each monthly cohort of women until you reach women born on 5 January 1954 whose SPA will be 6 March 2019. But a woman born on 6 January 1954 will revert to the two-month increase in SPA – her SPA will be 6 May 2019. That’s the case for all women born after 6 January 1954 until equalisation of SPA at age 66 is achieved for women born after 6 November 1954.
This methodology is blatantly unfair. I was at a dinner party recently where there were four women all from the same academic year. The oldest was born in October 1952, the youngest in July 1953.
The oldest received her state pension in March 2015 but the youngest won’t receive hers until July 2017. At the extreme for two women born at either end of the academic year on 1 September 1952 and 31 August 1953 there is a gap of two years ten months in their SPA.
Effectively the younger woman will have suffered a financial penalty of nearly two years pension, worth over £11,000.
I believe it’s this issue that Waspi should focus on. The injustice is clear and needs to be corrected. That can be achieved by reverting to two-month increases in SPA rather than four-month increases for the cohort of women born in the 9 months from 6 April 1953.
That would mean the rate of deferment of SPA for these women would be the same as those for the cohorts either side of them. At the moment these women on average are being penalised by about £5,000 each as a result of the extra delay in reaching SPA.
Such a change would have a knock-on effect on the SPA of all women born after 5 January 1954. That would mean equalisation at age 66 would not be achieved until 6 May 2022, a delay of 18 months compared with the current plans.
By acting now there is still time to correct the position as the first woman affected would achieve SPA on 6 May 2016 under the new structure, rather than 6 July 2016.
It’s been argued that this group of women are the first to receive the new higher level of state pension. I believe that’s a smokescreen as the majority of these women won’t in fact receive anything close to this new figure because of the mysterious way in which the new state pension is calculated.
Clearly there would be a cost to the Exchequer of making this change at this late stage. However, I believe most rational people would believe this is a price worth paying to correct this big social injustice.
John Moret is principal at MoretoSipps