The campaign to give thousands of women fairer treatment over their state pension entitlement was dealt a blow this week when the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said the government would not make any concessions.
Stephen Crabb, who replaced Iain Duncan Smith at the Department for Work and Pensions in March, told MPs in the Commons on Monday that the Conservatives had no plans to make any changes to the current system.
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Over the past year, a group known as WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) has been battling what they consider to be the unjust treatment of women over the state pension.
Their complaint is based on the view that the legislation which is increasing women’s state pension age (SPA) from 60 to 66 over the course of this decade was not communicated clearly enough to the public. According to WASPI, this has resulted in many women who were born in the 1950s reaching the age of 60 only to find they must wait several more years to get their pensions.
WASPI has set up petitions and lobbied politicians of all parties to put pressure on minsters to put in place some form of transitional measures. But while the campaign has received considerable support, it appears the government is unwilling to change its position.
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Concessions are not affordable
Crabb told MPs this week that the cost of delaying any rise in the SPA was unaffordable. “In the last Parliament, we were clear about the reasons why the changes were happening, which included addressing the long-term, serious fiscal impacts of life expectancy increasing. Developed nations all around the world are having to take exactly the same kind of decisions.”
He added: “Unwinding any of the decisions that were taken would involve people of working age — younger people — having to bear an even greater share of the burden of getting this country back to living within its means.”
Crabb also accused opposition politicians of behaving opportunistically. “If they do not have a plan that is clear and fully costed, they are simply playing those women along, pretending that they are in a position to unwind the changes while sitting there knowing full well that they have no serious proposal for doing so.”
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In March, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee suggested giving the women affected the option of early access to their pensions but at a reduced rate. However, Crabb said that the women he had spoken to did not think that was a good solution.
Analysts have also pointed out that, even if such measures were introduced, they would be likely to arrive too late to help most of the women who have been hit by the delays.
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