News, Culture & Society

4m women born in 1950s ‘disenfranchised’ by pension age change

Four million women born in the 1950s have been left ‘disenfranchised’ by ‘catastrophic’ changes to the state pension age, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Campaigners are arguing that the increase of women’s state pension age from 60 to 66 is unfair and unlawful because it is allegedly discriminatory.

They also believe that women born from April 6, 1953 have not been given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a pension.

Last year campaign group BackTo60 took the Government to court in a bid to get women reimbursed for missed pension payments.

They lost the High Court fight after senior judges ruled that the policy was lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds including sex and age. 

Now claimants Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63, have mounted a challenge at the Court of Appeal, which is hearing arguments over two days. 

Representing the campaigners, Michael Mansfield QC told senior judges this morning that the impact of the raising of the state pension age has been ‘dramatic’ for the women, adding: ‘This has been catastrophic for this group.

‘We have a group of essentially, economically and emotionally, disenfranchised women. So it is against that background that we do submit that there are grounds for discrimination,’ he told the hearing via video link. 

Campaigners are arguing that the increase of women’s state pension age from 60 to 66 is unfair and unlawful because it is allegedly discriminatory. They also believe that women born from April 6, 1953 have not been given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a pension (pictured, campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019)

They lost a landmark High Court fight last October after senior judges ruled that the policy was lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds. Now claimants Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63 have mounted a challenge at the Court of Appeal, which is hearing arguments over two days (pictured, campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019)

They lost a landmark High Court fight last October after senior judges ruled that the policy was lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds. Now claimants Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63 have mounted a challenge at the Court of Appeal, which is hearing arguments over two days (pictured, campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019)

What’s the history of the case? And why is it so controversial? 

The retirement age for women was increased from 60 to 66, in line with that of men, in November 2018.

Plans to increase the state pension age were announced in the Pension Act 1995 but these changes were accelerated by the Pension Act 2011.  

The changes to the state pension age aimed at bringing women’s state pension age into line with men’s.

But the increase in women’s state pension age became contentious because in 2011 then Chancellor George Osborne brought forward the timing of changes, initially for women alone and then also for both genders.

This hit women particularly hard because their increases happened both sooner than expected and in quick succession. Millions of women got just five years’ notice of an extension to their pension age.

This left them forced to either work much longer than expected or to retire with no state pension for that period and with not enough time to build up savings that could bridge the gap.

What is the campaign about?

The Women Against State Pension Inequality – or WASPI – campaign says it agrees with equalising women’s and men’s pension ages, but not the ‘unfair’ way the changes are being implemented and the lack of communication to women about changes which would have a major – and in some cases devastating – impact on their future finances.

The judicial review was the result of efforts by a different women’s campaign group, BackTo60.

Two claimants argued that raising their pension age discriminated against them on the grounds of their age and their sex, and that they were not properly informed of the changes in time to adjust.

What did the judges say last year?

Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the claim against the Government decision to raise women’s state pension age, saying: ‘The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants’ evidence.

‘But the court’s role was limited. There was no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in the legislation were not open to Government. In any event they were approved by Parliament.

‘The wider issues raised by the claimants about whether the choices were right or wrong or good or bad were not for the court. They were for members of the public and their elected representatives.’ 

Julie Delve and Karen Glynn took the Department for Work and Pensions to court, arguing that raising their pension age ‘unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age, sex, and age and sex combined’.

The pair also claimed they were not given adequate notice in order to be able to adjust to the changes.

But the judges said: ‘There was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex, because this legislation does not treat women less favourably than men in law. Rather it equalises a historic asymmetry between men and women and thereby corrects historic direct discrimination against men.’  

Mr Mansfield said that alongside the ‘economic, almost poverty line existence’ that they have to face, there is also the ‘psychological mental stress placed upon them’ which reduces many people unable to even do what they need to do to ‘make ends meet’.

He referred to ‘makeshift measures’ that women may have to resort to in order to survive, such as selling their home or using up savings.

Mr Mansfield described the six-year wait that women have from 60 to 66 as a ‘considerable’ period of time which translates to a ‘considerable’ sum of money – around the £8,000 mark if it is a full pension, leading to losses that could run up to about £50,000.

Mr Mansfield said it is not uncommon for women in this age group to face ‘straitened circumstances’, particularly for single women who have had low-paid, part-time jobs.

He also said another common feature for women in this age group is for them to be responsible for their elderly or infirm parents.

Mr Mansfield pointed out that men born in 1953 were offered auto credit, a scheme which he said survived until recently and was availed of by approximately four million men.

In his written submissions, Mr Mansfield said the appellants are women born in the 1950s who ‘seek to challenge both the legislative measures which raised the age at which they can receive their state pensions, and the inadequate notice they and other affected women received of the changes’.

He added: ‘The legislation equalises the state pension age of men and women.

‘Whilst a woman born before April 6 1950 continued to receive her state pension at age 60, the state pension age for women born after that date was raised progressively, to 65 initially for those born after October 5 1954.

‘Subsequently, the pension age for both men and women was raised from 65 to 66, 67 or 68 depending on age.’

Mr Mansfield’s submissions say Ms Delve expected to receive her state pension at age 60 in 2018, but as a result of the changes, she will not receive it until she is 66, in 2024.

Ms Glynn expected to receive her state pension at age 60 in 2016, but will not now receive it until she is 66 in 2022.

Joanne Welch, founder and campaign director at BackTo60, said: ‘There is no doubt in our minds that this is discrimination and we demand the return of our earned dues.’  

The appeal is due to continue on Wednesday and the judges are expected to give their ruling at a later date. 

The retirement age for women was increased from 60 to 66, in line with that of men, in November 2018.

Plans to increase the state pension age were announced in the Pension Act 1995 but these changes were accelerated by the Pension Act 2011. 

This hit women particularly hard because their increases happened both sooner than expected and in quick succession. Around 3.8 million women born in the 1950s got just five years’ notice of an extension to their pension age. 

BackTo60 is demanding that the state pension returns to 60 for all women born in the 1950s and wants to get repayment for the years of pension that nearly four million women have lost out on.  

The Government has estimated that a reversal of the pension changes in the Acts of Parliament of 1995 and 2011 would cost £215billion over the period 2010-11 to 2025-26. About £181billion of that would be money potentially owed to women and the rest to men.

It has said the move to make the state pension age the same for men and women was a ‘long overdue’ move towards gender equality, and had been clearly communicated to those affected. 

Last October High Court judges Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the women’s claim ‘on all grounds’. 

The court rejected the claimants’ argument that the policy was discriminatory based on age, adding that, even if it was, ‘it could be justified on the facts’, and also dismissed their contention that they were not given adequate notice of the changes. 

In a summary of the court’s decision they said: ‘The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants’ evidence. But the court’s role was limited.

Last October High Court judges Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the women's claim 'on all grounds'. In a summary of the court's decision they said: 'The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants' evidence. But the court's role was limited'

Last October High Court judges Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the women’s claim ‘on all grounds’. In a summary of the court’s decision they said: ‘The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants’ evidence. But the court’s role was limited’

Representing the campaigners, Michael Mansfield QC told senior judges this morning that the impact of the state pensions age has been 'dramatic' for the women, adding: 'This has been catastrophic for this group' (pictured, Anne Taylor (l) and Patsy Franklin (r) from the campaign Backto60 outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019)

Representing the campaigners, Michael Mansfield QC told senior judges this morning that the impact of the state pensions age has been ‘dramatic’ for the women, adding: ‘This has been catastrophic for this group’ (pictured, Anne Taylor (l) and Patsy Franklin (r) from the campaign Backto60 outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019)

‘There was no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in the legislation were not open to government. In any event they were approved by Parliament.

‘The wider issues raised by the claimants about whether the choices were right or wrong or good or bad were not for the court.

‘They were for members of the public and their elected representatives.’

They added in their ruling that the case brought by the so-called ‘WASPI women’, Women Against State Pension Inequality’, was based on an inaccuracy.

The judges stated that in their case, the campaigners had claimed that the government had made a promise not to hike up the age with proper consultation.

In their ruling, the justices said: ‘No such promise or representation was ever made.

‘In addition, it is clear that successive governments engaged in extensive consultation with a wide spread of interested bodies before the successive Pensions Acts were brought before Parliament.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk