Lancaster woman joins fight for justice over pension age rise

Photo Neil Cross'Karen Carter and Christina Barrett fighting pension injustice
Photo Neil Cross'Karen Carter and Christina Barrett fighting pension injustice

“Physically my body is going. If it was 62 I could have done it. But six years extra is a big ask.”

Christina Barrett, 64, from Hest Bank, is one of millions of women born in the 1950s who are having to wait years longer for their state pensions.

Photo Neil Cross'Christina Barrett fighting pension injustice

Photo Neil Cross'Christina Barrett fighting pension injustice

Christina feels the government’s Pensions Act 1995 was not implemented properly, and has caused great hardship for those who have paid tax and National Insurance for decades, only to be told they’ll have to work longer.

The mum and grandma says she received a letter from the government in 2012, two years before she expected to retire in 2014.

The letter stated that she wouldn’t get her state pension until 2020, aged 66.

Currently, three women born in the early 1950s who claim the pension age increase from 60 to 66 was unlawfully discriminatory, have won the first stage of their High Court challenge against the government.

Photo Neil Cross David Morris, MP for Morecambe.

Photo Neil Cross David Morris, MP for Morecambe.

Michael Mansfield QC, who is representing the claimants, told the High Court that the changes affected “a minimum of 3.8m women”, some of whom were given as little as 18 months’ notice.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been given 42 days to prepare a case.

Christina said that the government has failed to properly inform people, and that women born in the 1950s have been unable to plan for retirement, and in some cases, face poverty and even homelessness.

“We don’t mind the state pension age being equalised with men,” she said.

“But women had planned to retire at 60 and this has had a real effect on people.

“When the plans were first announced we were never informed personally.

“About 20 years before we were going to retire they just put little pieces in newspapers.

“It does get harder to work, you don’t have as much stamina, then you get this letter saying you’re going to have to work another six years.

“The government says that women were informed, but we weren’t. Not properly.”

Christina and her husband, who retired in May, have recently downsized to release equity from their house.

She has calculated the loss in pensions equates to around £40,000.

A former care worker and special needs teacher, in later life Christina has been self-employed, working with her husband as a decorator and gardner.

“At the moment I’ve no income at all,” she said.

“If I sign on, I would get Universal Credit, but because of my husband’s pension, we get too much money to qualify.

“I think it’s less than £200 a week that the pair of us are living on.

“I’m lucky because we’ve got a house but you want to be able to be debt free in retirement.

“If I’d known back then that I wasn’t going to get this pension, I would have carried on working in the classroom.

“I had a very small private pension but I drew this when I was 60 and it’s now gone.

“The women who were born in the 1950s never really had a private pension. They never really knew it was available at that time.

“I’ve paid in from the age of 16, and the expectation was that at the age of 60, I’d get to retire.

“It’s dreadful really, the fact that we’d not been told, so that we could plan better.

“It gets harder and harder. As much as you want to do stuff you just don’t have the stamina.

“I’ve got to this age, can’t find work, and so don’t have any money.

“I could do with a little part time job, but who employs a lady at 64?

“I’ve been told I could start an apprenticeship, and retrain!

“I’m looking after my grandchildren some of the time to help my daughter out, but obviously that’s not paid work.

“What people are saying is that there should have been a transition. Others are saying there should be some compensation.

The government’s policy clearly states that retirement age increase should be 10 years notice for every one year increase and the mistakes made regarding women born in the 50’s should not be repeated, clearly we have been wronged.”

Christina said that she wrote to her MP, David Morris, but it was a “waste of time”.

“He told me it would serve no purpose to meet,” she added.

“I assumed that my MP worked on behalf of his constituents and would be an advocate for them in Parliament.

“After working in many cases for over 40 years, the 1950s born women deserve better.

“They should not have to worry about keeping a roof over their head or choose between eating or heating.

“Financial decisions have been made by decades of government ministers from all parties.

Politicians need to be aware that 3.8m women carry a lot of clout at the ballot box and 1950s women are upset and angry at the situation in which they now find themselves, through no fault of their own.”

Joanne Welch, campaign director for Backto60, which is campaigning to reinstate the retirement age of 60 for women born in the 1950s, and has won the right to a Judicial Review, told the Lancaster Guardian: “The impact of the policy that was fast-tracked through government has been huge.

“It’s resulted in women feeling suicidal and destitute.

“If I believed that women were coping and that everything was hunky dory, then I wouldn’t be doing this.

“Women are basically being robbed.

“Why should they not try and claim back the money that they’ve paid in all their lives?

“It’s been all talk and no action from the government.

“We’ve got to make sure that younger generations do not get affected in this way.

“We feel that what the government wants to do is take away state pensions altogether.”

WHAT DOES THE MP SAY?

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said: “Due to data protection I am not able to comment on individual cases but more generally, equalising the State Pension age was necessary to ensure the State Pension remained sustainable, and to reflect our modern economy and society.

“The Pensions Act 1995 legislated for this to be done gradually after 2010.

“Following sharp increases in life expectancy projections, and recommendations from an independent review, the Government had to accelerate this process slightly in the Pensions Act 2011 to secure the sustainability of the system.

“The Government did listen to concerns raised at the time of the 2011 adjustment, and I am pleased that as a result the maximum increase was capped at 18 months relative to the 1995 timetable. That represented a £1.1bn concession, helping those women affected with the transition to a higher State Pension age. “Making further transitional arrangements would not only complicate the system but could also cost taxpayers many billions of pounds, and the potential cost of reversing the 2011 changes has been estimated at £39bn.

“On the issue of notice being given to those affected, the Department for Work and Pensions is clear that all those women affected were written to between January 2012 and November 2013. Those affected by the 1995 changes were also contacted between April 2009 and March 2011.

“Higher life expectancy does mean that as a society we will have to adjust to slightly longer working lives, but it is right to ensure at the same time that people have security and dignity when they do retire.

“That is why the Government will continue to provide unprecedented support for people in later life, including the triple lock and maintaining universal benefits such as the Winter Fuel Payment.

“The Government did adjust its proposals in 2011 to mitigate the impact on those worst affected by the State Pension age changes, and I do not think there is a need to revisit the issue.”

WHAT DOES THE DWP SAY?

“The decision, taken more than 20 years ago, to make State Pension age the same for men and women was a long-overdue move towards gender equality. People are living much longer so we need to raise the age at which all of us can have a State Pension to ensure it is sustainable now and for future generations.”

The Government has thoroughly reviewed the options for equalising the State Pension age, listening to concerns along the way. We have already introduced transitional arrangements, costing £1.1 billion. This concession reduced the proposed increase in State Pension age for over 450,000 men and women, and means that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the original 1995 Act timetable.

Since 1995 the Government has gone to significant lengths to communicate the changes to SPa, including campaigns and writing directly to those affected. Between April 2009 and March 2011, the DWP sent letters to 1.2million women born between 6th April 1950 and 5th April 1953, informing them of their State Pension age under the 1995 Pensions Act. In addition to this, letters were sent to over 5million people between 2012 and 2013 following legislation that accelerated the equalisation of men’s and women’s State Pension ages and brought forward the rise in SPa to 66. • Means tested support is available, if needed, for anyone experiencing difficulty.

The welfare system continues to provide a safety-net for those experiencing hardship, including problems such as unemployment, disability, and coping with caring responsibilities which affect those unable to work and therefore most in need in the run up to their State Pension Age.

The legislative changes of the 1995 Pensions Act were taken to address the longstanding inequalities that had previously existed between men and women’s SPa. From the 1940s until April 2010, the SPa was 60 for women and 65 for men. State Pension reform has focused on maintaining the right balance between sustainability of State Pension and fairness between generations in the face of demographic change.

By 2030, over 3 million women stand to gain an average of £550 per year through the introduction of the new State Pension. At least 80% of women reaching State Pension age before 2030 stand to receive more under the new State Pension than they would have done under the previous State Pension system.

Women retiring today can still expect to receive the State Pension for 23 years on average – over two years longer than men. Even after equalising women’s SPa with men’s, women will spend on average around 2 years more in receipt of their state pension because of their longer life expectancy.

There are currently 8.9 million 50-64 year olds in work. The employment for women aged 50-64 is 67.2% (4.2 million), this compares to 61.1% (3.6m) five years ago. More and more people are remaining fitter and healthier well in to later life.

In February 2017, we published a new strategy ‘Fuller Working Lives: A Partnership Approach’ with the aim of increasing the retention, retraining and recruitment of older workers by bringing about a change in the perceptions and attitudes of employers. The Fuller Working Lives Strategy is led by employers, who understand the business case to drive change.