State Pension: Impact of Changes on Women

Part of Opposition Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:30 pm on 26th September 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jennifer McCann Jennifer McCann Sinn Féin 5:30 pm, 26th September 2016

I support the motion and thank its proposer for bringing it to the House. It has been said clearly that we are not debating the equalising of the pension age between men and women but looking at how those plans are being carried out, particularly at the timeline and at how it impacts on a group of women who were born in the 1950s.

The motion supports the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign. This is a group of women affected by the changes who got together to create the campaign. They have to be commended for that. They are a voice for all women who have been unfairly impacted on by the changes to the state pension age. They are challenging not the equalisation of the age with men but the way in which it has been carried out and almost accelerated, meaning that they have not had time to plan for their retirement. Imagine, as one of the contributors said, that you thought that you were retiring at 60 and then, all of a sudden, were told a short period before then that you now had to wait a number of years for your pension. That has a big adverse effect on people and pushes them into financial difficulties. These are people around 60 years old who have contributed to society in whatever way. A lot of the women have been low earners throughout their life, simply because they may have been in part-time jobs because of family and caring responsibilities. They were waiting patiently for their state pension — the only pension that they can access, because they had not had enough contributions to have a private pension — only to be told that they are not getting it and may have to look for work at 60 years of age. That is totally unjust. The lack of a public awareness campaign around the issue has been particularly difficult for the women, who have not been notified directly, as the group highlighted. A lot of them only heard through the media or places like that.

We have to look at this in the context of gender inequality right across the piece. There is inequality in the gender pay gap, and women are particularly impacted on by cuts to in-work and out-of-work benefits. This will only add to their financial difficulties, particularly this group's. It is very unfair to treat women in this way. We need to support the campaign, which is about fairness and equality. I call for the making of transitional arrangements for people who have been caught up in this. I am not sure of the numbers, but we could look at some sort of a transitional period in which these women are given something financially to get them through it. We support and look forward to working with the campaign, and I congratulate the proposer of the motion.