Shirley’s Story

Shirley is a chartered psychologist and a retired university lecturer. She has been left feeling disempowered by the changes made to the State Pensions Age (SPA). Like many women, she did not receive a reasonable notification period regarding the changes made to her pension and therefore did not have time to prepare and plan for the adjustments. Shirley believes there won’t be a true democracy until women are fairly represented. Therefore she is a strong advocate for equal representation in parliament as she believes the government would be better informed if more women were involved in the decision making process.

There isn’t even a third of women in parliament so we are not really represented. If we are not really represented then how is it a democracy? Once I got married they said oh you might have children so we won’t send you on any courses we won’t train you. The changes they are making to women’s state pensions they have done it in the name of equality. They want to equalise us. But they are actually making us less equal. We have had a life time of living in inequality. Women are poorer even well paid women are paid less. As a woman I know I will retire with a lot less than if I was a man. My message to policy makers is to think carefully we are all human-beings. As a woman you feel very disempowered. They are not interested in women being part of society. We are 50% of the population, we are in every home, in every house we are not going to go away.’

What is the government’s policy towards state pensions for women?

The government have made a number of significant changes to entitlements of State Pension for women. For decades, the State Pension Age (SPA) for women used to be 60. However, the government is gradually increasing the age women can claim their State Pension. Changes to SPA were announced in the 1995 Pensions Act and were to be implemented by 2020. However in 2011, the government sped up the timetable so that the changes made in 1995 to the SPA would be phased in by 2018 instead. The changes increased the SPA for women to 65. In 2011, it was also announced that the SPA between 2018 and 2020 would increase to 66, and will gradually increase in stages until it reaches the age of 68. One of the major concerns about this policy change is that many of the women affected say that they were not properly informed about the changes made to their pensions and therefore did not have enough time to adequately prepare for the financial burden this will bring.

What is the issue with this approach?

The changes made to State Pensions are disadvantageous for many women. An estimated 500,000 women are currently being affected by the increase in SPA. The motive behind the government’s changes is to ensure that the SPA for women is equal to the SPA for men. However, the speed of the changes is a real cause for concern. In addition, the government did not write to any women affected by the rise in the pension age for nearly 14 years after the law was passed in 1995. Many MPs have recognised this and also found that the government had failed to properly communicate with the women affected by the rise in the SPA. The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group set up a campaign in order to address the unfair changes made to the State Pension age imposed on women.

In 2011, the coalition government decided that the rises would be accelerated so that for both men and women, the SPA would reach 66 by 2020. The 2011 decision was made rapidly and with barely any notice. Women born between 1953 and 1956 have been affected the worst as they have had their pension age increased twice, both in 1995 and in 2011. As such, thousands of women who were already being made to wait until they were 63-65 to get their pensions would now face a further delay. Many women are now experiencing hardship, as they have to wait for their state pension and have also not been able to prepare financially. As a result, many women had no choice but to continue working or use their savings to get by. In addition, it may be harder for women to enter the workforce in their sixties as many employers are reluctant to employ people in their sixties.

See the WASPI campaign website here: