Both men and women can now claim their state pension at the age of 66. But women born in the 1950s had long expected to retire at the age of 60. Four women from the Essex town of Clacton explain how the changes left them shocked and disrupted their lives.
‘I couldn’t believe it’
Maureen Smith, now 66, found out two months before her 60th birthday that she would not be receiving her state pension when she expected.
“My sister-in-mother law’s informed me that I would not be receiving a pension until I reached the age of 65.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she expresses her surprise. “Because I had always assumed that I would retire at the age of 60 since I was 15 years old. It was a surprise to learn that you would have to work an additional five years.
“I used to nurse, and how useful would I have been on the ward if I had continued to do so in my later years?
“I mean, if your health is deteriorating, you might not be able to do half of the things you could do in your twenties.
“When the government told us we needed to retrain, I thought it was a joke,” she says. “I applied for apprenticeships several times. One is for an electrician, and the other is for a bricklayer. They didn’t want me at all, so I got a nil points”.”
Mrs. Smith considers herself “lucky” because she has a private pension and her husband is still working.
“However, we’ve come across women who are sleeping in their cars and then going into their workplace, such as care homes, to shower before they begin their duties,” she says.
“They will eat at work and sleep in their cars at night because they cannot afford to stay in hotels.
“These are women who should have retired, who have been widowed or have lost their homes in some cases.
“These are the women for whom I am fighting.”
‘I was looking forward to it’
Sue Marriott, 67, has a similar storey of disappointment.
In February 2012, she received a letter informing her that she would not be eligible for her pension as planned.
“I was scheduled to retire in April 2014, which was only two years earlier than I had planned.
“I had been looking forward to retiring since I was 14 years old, when my Nan told me about pensions,” she explains. “I told myself that if I work hard and do everything you ask of me, as well as pay your taxes, I’ll get my pension when I’m 60.
“I was looking forward to it because it meant I’d have more time to do things I wanted to do.
“As you get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to find work. I had a lot of energy until I was about 62 years old.
“However, it can feel like a cliff edge when you suddenly become extremely tired and begin to suffer from illness and aches and pains.
“It’s a shock to the system that I’m not feeling well almost all of the time. And I don’t think I could work right now because I’m not feeling well enough.”
Another source of annoyance, she claims, is a lack of awareness among many women about their pension options.
“A terrible lot of women, even those approaching retirement age,” she says, “don’t know.” “Women who have had divorce judgments based on a retirement age of 60 are losing their rights.
“There are still women out there who do not realise they will not be retiring at 60.”
In July, the Parliamentary Ombudsman ruled government officials were too slow to tell many women they would be affected by the rising state pension age.
The finding brings the prospect of compensation closer for thousands of women born in the 1950s who have long been furious about the issue.
The ombudsman, on the other hand, has no authority to refund “lost” pensions or recommend that anyone receive their state pension earlier than the current law allows.
The Department for Work and Pensions claims that its actions have been upheld by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, and that the Supreme Court has denied the claimants’ request to appeal.
It claims that equalising the state pension age for men and women was a “step toward gender equality.”
The rising state pension age
For more than 60 years, men received their state pension at the age of 65 and women at the age of 60, beginning in 1948.
However, it was argued over time that the disparity was unjust because women had a longer life expectancy than men.
As a result, the 1995 Pensions Act established a timetable to equalise the age at which men and women could draw their state pension.
The plan was to gradually raise the qualifying age for women to 65 from 2010 to 2020.
However, the coalition government of 2010 decided to speed up that timeline, claiming that the state pension was becoming unaffordable.
The new qualifying age of 65 for women was brought forward to 2018 under the Pensions Act of 2011.
In 2020, the qualifying age for both men and women will be raised to 66.
These changes were expected to result in a £30 billion savings.
Source: BBC Reality Check
‘I don’t know how long I’ve got to work for’
Tracey Cox, 57, is a health and social care worker.
Prior to 2014, she would have had three years to work before being eligible for a state pension.
“It’s more difficult because you think three years isn’t that long and it would have been great to retire in three years,” she says. “But I don’t even know what the retirement age is because it changes all the time.”
“So I’m not sure when I’m going to retire or how long I’ll have to work.”
“That’s very concerning because you can’t plan for the future.”
“The work I do is very rewarding, but it is also challenging.” I’m not sure how things will turn out.
“I think I’ll struggle because I haven’t been able to save in a pension for a long time, and the state pension isn’t very much.”
Although she understands why the retirement age has been raised, she is concerned that the constant changes will cause many people to lose faith in the system.
“They need to decide when people can retire so people can plan for it,” she says.
“However, it is constantly changing.”
“When you’re young, you don’t think about your pension because you think you’ve got a long time to go.” That’s what I thought when I was younger, but it quickly catches up with you.”
‘ I gave up work and I thought it would be fine’
Tina Sylvester’s two daughters decided they wanted to be nurses after their father died of cancer.
Mrs Sylvester felt she could help them by caring for their children in 2011.
“They had other jobs and wanted to go into nursing,” she explains. “I figured, yes, I’ll get my pension in a couple of years.”
“I quit my job in 2011, and I had some savings, so I thought it would be fine.”
“Then, in 2012, I received a letter stating that you will not be receiving your pension at the age of 60.”
“It came as quite a surprise to me because that was exactly what I had planned to do since I was 15 years old.”
“It was dreadful. When I was 60, I returned to work, first in a playgroup and then in a cafe.”
She believes that raising the retirement age has unfairly discriminated against women.
“It’s amazing how difficult it is to be heard,” she says. “A lot of people, whether because of our age or otherwise, seem to believe we won’t be able to change anything.”
“You definitely feel like the weaker sex. I’m sure if it was all men protesting for their pensions, people would take notice.
“It’s as if you’ve lived one big lie.
“Everyone wants equality, but it isn’t equality because men now have to work an extra year, while women have to work an extra six years.”
“If they wanted true equality, why didn’t they raise the retirement age for women to 63 and lower it for men?”
“That wouldn’t have been as bad.”