A right to debate or a right to restitution? #WASPI


For many of us, men retire at 65 and women at 60, that was hard coded into our learning like the multiplication tables and it’s clearly quite hard to unlearn.

Steve Bee makes a good point on twitter

But if you type “what is my state pension age” into the box at the top of your screen you will find this   https://www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension

The Government’s state pension calculator will tell you when you are due to retire and also what you’re likely to get (if you are 55 or over).

A lot of people would like to know what they are going to get and when they are going to get it when they are in their fourties,  Steve is on their side.

I am not so sure. No sensible person should expect to know for sure the future in 30 years time. It is an exercise in futility!


A right to debate is not a right to restitution

The law says that the state pension age will be decided by those in Government on the basis of how long , we as a nation will live. The amount we get will be partly up to our national insurance contribution history and partly down to how the Government prioritises spending.

I think we all agree that Government is the expression of the wishes of the people, since those who govern are elected by the people. Some people who are on the wrong side of the argument will feel under-represented and there are levers in place to let their voices be heard. One of those levers is the right- should you get 100,000 names on a petition, to have your case considered for a debate in parliament.

But “a right to a debate”, does not constitute a right to change. There has to be a strong legal justification to change the law as Steve Groves pointed out yesterday

Indeed, the reason we have the Pension Protection Fund was not because of the championing of consumers (there weren’t an army of Ros Altmann’s) but because the European Union demanded it. The reason we are equalising pensions at the rate we are is not because of a moral conviction but because the European Union demands it.


What ambulances are there to chase?

Because the legal case for WASPI is weak, and because the moral case is of second order, the main weapon that WASPI has is to embarrass Government into a concession. Steven Groves is again very cute in his suggestion

But here we are grasping at straws and Steve may be tongue in cheek!

WASPI is better able to communicate than Government because it is young, agile and knows how to deploy social media. Ironically, these are precisely the things that we assume those approaching retirement can’t do- which is a lesson in itself!

The Government haven’t found a way (or more likely a budget) to communicate the state pension ages effectively enough for the WASPI campaigners.


The State’s duty to tell or the citizens’s duty to find out?

It’s here I have a real political problem. Is it the duty of the State to make citizens know or is the duty of its citizens to understand the law?  If the State has a duty to make people know , then it must throw resource at the problem. The Government is spending £40m on Workie to make SMEs aware of their AE duties- ironically it is coming in for a lot of stick for doing so).

Would we have accepted the cost of a public service campaign of similar dimensions stretching over the past twenty years, informing us all that the state pension age was changing?

Or would we expect our citizens and their various financial advisers, to have kept abreast of the changes?


Steve Bee for the DWP?

I sense that Steve Bee rather fancies being the DWP’s megaphone and I think he’d do that job very well. The DWP may rather have Steve on the inside than the outside! Steve may feel that he would rather not have the responsibility for speaking for Government rather than at it. Certainly he can see how awkward that can be , by considering the situation of the Pension Minister.

But no matter how successful he may consider WASPI in raising awareness, WASPI still only speaks for around 0.1% of the adult population. Those who are the most ignorant of the state pension age changes are those unaware of WASPI, the silent majority who take what is on offer.

In considering the legal case the Government has against it, Alan Higham senses that it is the people with the quietest voices who are most entitled. He tweets of the DWP..


Getting to the most vulnerable

Can we really get to those people who are excluded? In my experience, the social networks of the “socially excluded” are pretty strong. Check http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and look how many people use Martin Lewis as a source of information on benefits. There is hardly an estate in the land that does not have a benefits maven on it – the “go to” person for information on allowances. This is not a criticism, in fact it’s a big up for those people who help others get their entitlements.

But not everyone has access, the Government will miss many people and I’m quite sure the “men retire at 65, women at 60” mantra persists to this day. WASPI will have done a lot to change that but that is all I think WASPI can do. It cannot role back the EU law that drove the changes nor can it contest the logic that you don’t pay pensions earlier to the people who generally live longer.

The answer to my question is surely “no”. The only way to keep people invulnerable to change, is not to change.


Post menopausal ostriches

We all know that change is happening whether we like it or not. People are living longer, and though they’d like to retire earlier, people are working longer too. Women who have been on the wrong end of entitlement in years gone by, are now in a position to catch up because they have something like an equal playing field when it comes to getting a job in later life.

One of the most shocking things about the auto-enrolment opt-out statistics is that it is the over 50’s who are least wanting to play pension catch up and start saving. It is precisely these people who are most affected by the changes in the state pension age.

Those who refuse the free money on offer from employers and opt-out of auto-enrolment in their fifties are making what appear to be crazy decisions. They are doing so against all the guidance that Government and employers and pension experts.

Will they, like WASPI, mount a campaign when they consider what they have lost in a decade’s time?


We’ve never had it so good

I suspect that ours (I am 54), is the last generation that really thinks in terms of pension rights. Ours thinks that we have a right to a full state pension at 60 or 65 and a right to say no to change. We have a right to spend our salary without pension deductions and a right to a long, happy and healthy retirement. All these rights are fictional – based on an entitlement fantasy that relies on others doing things for us.

It is unpleasant to know that your state pension age has floated down the river a couple of miles. It’s happening to me too (65 to 67). But – as has been pointed out many times- if we had properly pushed back the State Pension Age in line with increasing life expectancy since its introduction by Beveridge, we would have SPAs of 75.

We really never have had it so good.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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10 Responses to A right to debate or a right to restitution? #WASPI

  1. Dot holden says:

    One question-just where were we supposed to get the money from to save for a pension? Assuming you knew about the changes that is! Most women did not have ‘spare’ money to invest. As to the question of whether Government should be responsible for notifying people of change to an entitlement for which they (the people) have already met the required contributions-yes, they should be fully responsible for ensuring that changes are communicated and understood. There were very few workplace pension schemes to join and insufficient time to make savings that would make a difference. Many women ( myself included) had no spare money left. We worked to support our families

    • Anon says:

      You’re not “entitled” to a state pension payable from 60 any more than I’m entitled to mortgage tax relief. Things change. You may have made tax contributions but they were at the same rate as everyone else and won’t be anywhere near the expected cost of your state pension. There is no entitlement.

      On savings, unless already retired and bridging the gap with savings, a later SPA gives more time to work and make savings to make a difference. All the change is really saying is work a bit longer. Why is the current crop of soon to retirees any more unable to do so than future ones?

      • KTP says:

        Yes, things change but this is not about entitlement but communication and setting expectations correctly. The changes should have been applied going forward and not retrospectively to a generation of women who had no opportunity to make changes to accommodate the new situation. The DWP is saying that this is righting a discriminatory wrong, but let’s have a level playing field here. Women have traditionally taken career breaks to raise families, be carers to elderly and/or infirm relatives and the gender pay gap is still in play. The affected parties would not have sufficient time to change their circumstances.
        I also do not know of another situation where detrimental changes would be applied retrospectively and without consultation with the affected parties? So yes, things can change, but apply the changes legally and fairly.

  2. John Moret says:

    Whilst this debate goes on the group of women who were singled out for special and unfair treatment continue to be ignored. They are the quarter a million or so women born between 6th April 1953 and 5th January 1954. The methodology adopted in the 2011 legislation unfairly discriminated against this group by deferring their SPA at a rate three times more than applied to the cohorts either side of them. Last night I was at a dinner party where there were four women all from the same academic year and born at dates raging from October 1952 to July 1953. The eldest received her pension in March 2015 the youngest won’t receive hers until July 2017. Where’s the equity in that? On average the cohort of women affected are losing just under £5,000 each when compared with all other women reaching SPA. There is still time to remedy this issue by moving this cohort back on to the same rate of SPA deferral as all other groups. But this needs to be done before 6th April 2016. The argument that they will benefit from the new state pension is a smokescreen. This is an opportunity for the new Pensions Minister to demonstrate that she hasn’t lost all her campaigning zeal.

  3. henry tapper says:

    John, I’m not sure that anyone is singling out the women born in 1953-4. They are certainly the people who lose most out of the transition and nobody’s saying it’s fair – but this is not a vendetta, this is an extremely complex transition where there are losers.

    But this news is now over 4 years old and you were better placed than almost anyone I know to have campaigned for change .

    Why has everyone been quiet about this for so long? Ros Altmann has absolutely no mandate to roll back these decisions and I’d be most surprised if she changed her decision.

    I too am losing two years of state pension and in truth I’m lucky, if we were to have moved SPA in line with mortality since Beveridge, none of us would be picking up our state pension till 75,

  4. ancientllm says:

    Had we had a decent Pensions Minister in the last government it is possible that this change would have been implemented better, even allowing for the fact that it was pushed through by Osborne. But we didn’t. Of course it was unfair to tell people a couple of years before retirement that they had twice as long to go to SPA as they thought. It would appear that those campaigning in the pensions’ arena didn’t care…….

  5. henry tapper says:

    I think that I am one who should hold my hands up ancentllm. Had I fully understood what was going on with the 2011 reforms, I would have been vocal, but like many others- I was busy looking elsewhere. This is part of the problem, you need to be looking all around you all the time so that you can dodge them bullets!

    We need to trust Ministers, I did and do trust Steve Webb. To sin is to be human, to forgive’s to be divine!

  6. Kathryn Goodman says:

    Equalisation of state pension age is just. The amount of notice given by the 1995 Pensions Act was sufficient. The amount of notice given by the 2011 Pensions Act was not. Even the government themselves have decided that, in future, all people affected by changes to state pension would have a minimum of 10 years notice. The majority of women caught in the 2011 trap had less than 7 years notice and men, 8 years notice. Pension planning is a long term plan.

  7. Angie Brooks says:

    But isn’t this all a load of b******s? We were told when we started working we would pay X in NICs, receive Y in SP at age Z. Then they moved the goalposts and didn’t tell us.

  8. henry tapper says:

    Sums it up nicely Angie

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