Trudy Baddams' open letter to the Guardian on WASPI and their stolen pension years; "We Paid In, You Pay Out.”
There are several aspects to the 50’s women’s pensions and I have broken them down below.
1. In the mid 1960’s – early 1970’s when the 50’s women began their journey into work and contributing to Graduated Pension and National Insurance the pension age was 60 for women and men retired at 65.
2. From 1925 – 1940 women’s pension was equal to men’s at 65, but because women usually married men a few years their senior, it was believed that this was unfair on married men as they had to continue working until their wives reached 65 also, so in 1940, in fairness to MEN, the government changed the women’s pension age to 60 so the married couple could enjoy their retirement together. The government at the time showed compassion.
3. Nothing has changed, women still usually marry men a few years their senior.
4. Women continued to pay Graduated Pension contributions until it was phased out and merged with National Insurance.
5. Paying National Insurance contributions entitles the contributor to some benefits and old age pension, unconditionally and with no means testing.
6. Women of the 50’s didn’t have the opportunities men had and didn’t enjoy the life style of women folk of today, they didn’t even have equal pay, still don’t, they had no choice but to pay their contributions by law at the same rate as men.
7. So single women worked their way through life, from the ‘60’s/70’s making their contributions and their employers matching these contributions, anything from 9% - 12% of their wages just like men. They entered into the pension contract in the knowledge they would retire at 60. They have paid for their pensions and other benefits as required by law, they’re not expecting anyone to pay for them, they have contributed to their pensions for some 45 years and are still contributing today.
8. Up until the 1970’s married women were given the option of paying the lower ‘married woman’ rate of NI, sometimes referred to as the 2p rate, this dis-empowered women as they would not be entitled to certain benefits and their pension age would be based on when their husband reached retirement.
9. But married women who married before the ‘70’s who opted to continue paying the ‘standard NI rate’ the same as men were entitled to all benefits and were entitled to retire at 60 in their own right.
10. Those who married and had children were often frowned upon if they worked, they were expected to stay at home, look after the children and become housewives, looking after their husbands and household too, men were the breadwinners, the wage earners. Mothers tended to find small part-time jobs such as dinner ladies, or cleaners to fit in around the children’s school hours and holidays just to add a couple of bob to the family purse, often these jobs were under paid, and didn’t have the equal pay commission on their side in those days, or a national minimum wage, often they were scant hours with no tax or NI responsibility.
11. Mothers and carers were covered by the ‘Home Responsibilities’ credits, for example mothers were covered for 16 years while they looked after their children.
So, the above are the bullet points relating to the history of women’s pensions. That is how things were, the law of the land from 1940, men retired at 65 and their wives and single women retired at 60 in fairness to men. Now let’s look at the present and the future shall we?
A. We now learn that in 1995 the government decided to revert back to the 1920’s and bring back the age of retirement to 65 for both men and women in fairness to MEN again, but no sooner than 2020. This rise was blamed on the EU at the time and the EU was happy with a relaxed transition and other European countries don’t have equalisation and indeed some are bringing down the pension age for men and women, it was not an EU directive at all.
B. The government said it personally informed all those affected by this change, as is legally required, but this was not the case, very few, if any, actually received any notification of any change, this is being blamed on the fact that the government departments did not have up to date contact details for the women involved, but I hasten to add that these women still received their NI demands for payment, their self-assessment forms for their self-employment and their child tax credits, child benefits and their working tax credits, so the lack of up to date contact information is questionable, and most women were unaware of this change in law. Out of the blue women were finding they had to work an EXTRA 5 years, giving no time to make adjustments to their life styles to take this change into account.
C. In 2007 the government passed yet another law, again on the quiet, not informing women or men that the pension age would increase to 66 but not before 2024 and 2026. Women all of a sudden would have to work an EXTRA 6 years while the men only had to work an EXTRA 1 year, in fairness to MEN.
D. In 2011 Women’s state pension age would now be raised more quickly to reach 65 in 2018 which breached the coalition agreement promise of ‘no sooner than 2020’ women's state pension age would rise to 65 by 2018 and men’s and women’s pension ages would rise to 66 would be rushed through by April 2020.
E. The pension age is based on life expectancy at the time, for example the life expectancy of a woman my age (1 year off the original retirement age of 60) is 86 and the government says we should all be able to enjoy 1/3 of life in retirement, which would make my retirement age 58, but the pension age as it stands with this new law at 66 would create a life expectancy of 99 years, someone somewhere has made a grave mathematics error.
The above points are the here and now, this is where women stand at this point in time, while men only have 1 year EXTRA to work and in fairness to MEN, equalisation, 500,000 women will have to wait longer than a year, 300,000 the rest of us 50’s women have an EXTRA 6 to wait for our pensions despite the facts pointed out in the issues above.
So looking at the facts alone it is clear discrimination of women vs men, in fairness to MEN the law was changed in 1940, again the law changed in fairness to MEN in 1995, nowhere do I see any fairness to WOMEN, all I see is discrimination, women staying home looking after the children, not working, keeping house, women earning a pittance before the equalisation of wages, and before the introduction of the minimum wage, working and paying contributions towards their pensions, but now 45 years on they are being denied what that have paid into. These women are still paying for their right to a pension. Many have paid over the odds as married women opting to pay the ‘standard rate’ in order to retire at 60, clearly as Baroness Altmann says this pension has been mis-sold by the government to women of the 50’s. If women are not going to get their pensions at the age agreed when they began paying then the government has no right to collect any further contributions and has a duty to repay the overpayment to the women who have over-paid for a service they will never receive.
It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that everyone understands the system, it is not the young paying for our pensions and it is wrong for the government to imply this, it is us, we have paid in and we want our entitlement, this is not a benefit this is something we have paid into all our working lives under the assumption that the government would honour its side of the agreement as we have done, as our employers have done.
Government have a duty of care to its people, women are suffering at the hands of governments policy, they are unable to work, they are in the hands of the jobcentre, they are in training or work experience, this far down the line when they should be enjoying their retirement with their family.
We Paid In, You Pay Out.
It is also wrong to say the money isn’t there we all know that the NI pension fund should have been ring-fenced, and that the government have had their fingers in the pot as there is only £30bn left, but this is enough to begin paying what is due to us 50’s women.
There have been rumblings that the government would like to ‘help us’ we don’t want ‘help’ we want what is rightfully ours, and talks about deals, so we can ‘retire early’ we don’t want to ‘retire early’ we want to retire at the age we were told we could retire when we entered into this agreement. ‘Lower life time’ rate has been discussed but this just adds to the discrimination, we have been discriminated against all our lives, to have to draw a lower rate of pension than our menfolk is utterly wrong when we’ve all paid in the same percentages.
It is cheaper to pay a woman her pension at the agreed date she began paying her dues, than it is to fund a young unemployed family, release our jobs for the youngsters, allow us women to retire at the age we agreed when we began our journey in our working life of contributions, look after the women who never stood a chance of accumulating the necessary years of contributions as their caring responsibilities didn’t allow them to work, to build up their credits, the mum’s who had children, they were allowed 16 years of home responsibilities credits but this has now changed to just 12 years, those who are looking after disabled children or elderly parents, of those who were housewives looking after their husbands and not working, relying on their husbands NI who have become widowed.
Women have planned for their retirement to look after their elderly parents or their grandchildren or volunteer in the charity shop, this government has stripped the country of its army of grey volunteers in its greed, costing the taxpayer thousands in caring, in childminding. It’s time for change, for respect for the 50’s women, some of us 60 something ladies have been found wanting, some on workfare working for jobseekers allowance, lost their dignity, lost their will to live as their old bodies are cracking around them and they can’t cope with the hard graft day in, day out, some go cap in hand to the jobcentre for benefits, and some go to foodbanks, some have sold their homes, this is degrading when they have done everything required of them all their working lives, this is a serious matter and needs to be addressed now, not in a months’ time, it needs urgent attention, we didn’t choose to be born women and I thought discrimination against women had been stamped out, this government has brought it back on the biggest platform ever, this is an issue which affects every man, woman, child, grandchild, boy, girl, mum, dad, sister, brother, those in need of voluntary services, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, time to wake up and understand we will not give up, time to pay up.
As Ros Altmann says we were not given notice and have had no time to make changes to our retirement plans. Men are now retiring earlier than their womenfolk, the system has gone full circle in 'fairness to men' without a thought to the womenfolk, some men are having to work on longer as the 'expected' wife's pension is denied and the joint income including the man's pension isn't enough to cover household bills.
On a personal note, I was going to retire next year at 60 because I paid the ‘standard rate’ of NI, had I paid the married woman’s rate, my retirement age would then have been 63 as my first husband was 3 years my senior, paying the ‘standard rate’ all these years has made no difference to my retirement age whatsoever I find I have to work until I’m 66 no matter what. But my present situation is slightly different, I was hoping to receive my pension at 60, not long to wait, my 59th birthday this week, that way my husband who suffered a ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm a few years ago is finding it difficult keeping up with his full time work, he tires easily, the plan was to cut his hours to suit his needs when I retire next year, with the sudden changes in pension ages he will have to continue to work full time until we both reach 66 or if this fatigue worsens he will have to think about claiming benefits.
So all those years I paid into a system believing I would retire at 60 and now at 59 I find I am not, and still this government is taking my NI contributions at the ‘standard rate’ but the goalposts have changed beyond reach. All those years paying into a system which would look after me and mine in my retirement, except governments have reneged on the deal we entered into when us 50’s women began our journey into work 40 odd years ago, the government owes us, they are in breach of contract.
Women of the 50’s are strong we will continue our fight until we get what is ours by right.
We Paid In, You Pay Out.
Trudy from Somerset"
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Hansard on the Waspi debate in Parliament, 1st Feb 2016.