Changes to pensions may hit Wakefield women harder than other areas

The impact of controversial changes to women’s pensions may have hit Wakefield harder than other areas, it’s been suggested.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 11:44 am
Updated Friday, 11th October 2019, 12:44 pm
Campaigners say they were not given enough notice of changes to the retirement age. Picture by Isabel Infantes/Getty

Councillor Olivia Rowley said that more local women may be have been affected than because of the nature of work in the district’s economy.

Campaigners claim that women born in the 1950s were not given enough notice of the government’s plans to bring their state retirement age into line with men, with some having lost out financially as a result.

But the High Court ruled last week that the way the policy was introduced did not discriminate against those affected.

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Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Monday, Coun Rowley, who represents Wakefield East, said: “We’ve had a lot of heavy industries here in the past, in which women have often had minor roles, or supported the home.

“As a result they’ve not been entitled to pensions from full-time employment, and that’s also because of shift work their partners were doing.

“We’re now in a situation where little notice was given, their pensions were delayed, and now post-60 they are having to apply for benefits and being pushed into jobs they’ve little experience of.

“It’s a really sad situation, and I think Wakefield is possibly one of the worst affected because of the nature of men’s jobs.”

Joseph Quinn, the council’s partnerships and policy manager, said he was unsure whether or not a disproportionate number of women from the district had been affected.

But he added: “We’ve all seen the national press around this.

“I think we all know there’s an issue.

“The pension system changes were brought forward earlier than what was expected, by the last coalition government.

“People thought there’d be a longer transition period.”

Plans to bring the women’s pension age into line with men’s were first passed by Parliament in 1995, though not accelerated for another 16 years. Women retired at 65 for the first time last year. This will rise to 66, alongside men’s, next year, and then to 67 in 2028.

The Backto60 group, which has led protests against the changes, estimates around 3.8million women were affected across the UK.

But in a summary of their decision, High Court 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.”