Pensions equality inequality

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb deserves a medal for bravery under fire (he’s the one who looks like a teenager with a beard). Time and again he’s valiantly defended the way his Government has left thousands of women struggling on or below the poverty line after they rushed in new pensions equality arrangements. The Government needed yet more cuts (what’s new?) and saw a quick win by shifting the women’s retirement age up a few years. Trouble is, they neglected  to let the 500,000 women who would be most affected – those born between 1953 & 1955 – know. These women had planned to retire at a certain age, only to find out too late that the the goalposts had been moved. Suddenly, they were retiring with no prospect of any income until their pension would eventually kick in at age 66 (although who knows? By the time they reach 66, they could shift it up again!). I read about one women who had just £63 a week to live on (should have been £73, but she had to take out a loan to cover the time until her benefits kicked in, so was paying that back each week too). She was literally choosing between between heating or eating. But according to Stephen, it’s her own fault for not keeping an eye on the news, and not his for failing to inform her by letter that they were moving the goalposts.

Nobody is saying that pensions shouldn’t be equal between men and women – we know the system was unsustainable – and we’ve known for some time it was going to happen at some point. But a less abrupt way of introducing the changes would surely have been better than catapulting hard-working women into a retirement of desperate poverty.

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