State Pension: Impact of Changes on Women

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

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Photo of Colin McGrath Colin McGrath Social Democratic and Labour Party 5:30 pm, 26th September 2016

I cannot but feel that this is like bringing children into a sweet shop and showing them exactly what they cannot have. What we have here is a group of women who have worked all their days, expecting to get their pension at the age of 60, only to be told that they are not entitled to it and will have to work longer. That seems to be decidedly unfair to these people who, in all fairness, entered into contracts when they started work and started paying their National Insurance contributions. They expected that, at the end, at 60, they would get their pension, but that has been taken from them. It is the inequality of picking on one group with the changes that I find particularly distasteful.

When the changes were introduced in 1995, it took HMRC a full 14 years before it wrote out and told people about them. For some people, those changes would come online in 2010 and they were given a year's notice. Back in 1995, when the decision was taken, there was no social media, Facebook or the mass spreading of information. Taking out a few advertisements in a few newspapers was not an adequate way to inform people of these major changes.

There is just no sense to the gradual introduction of the change, with people born at different times getting a different retirement age. People who are about two and a half years apart in age have to retire about six years apart. There has been no methodical approach to it. People in the same family — two sisters with only maybe a year or a year and a half between them — have different times to retire. It has just been very unhelpful. People feel very hurt and aggrieved that they are losing out on a large amount of money.

There is also the insult that, because they have to work extra time, extra years, they have to make the contributions. They can pay the money in, but they do not get the money out. That was the double dose for them. They just do not appreciate the fact that they have to spend extra time paying in without getting the money back.

We have also heard today, through the petition and in the debate, about the scale of the issue: 68,000 women in Northern Ireland. If any other sector of Northern Ireland's population were being detrimentally impacted, there would rightly be all the shouting that there should be about the issue. It is important that we bring this to the Floor of the Assembly so that we can raise this important issue for all those people. Other figures that are available show that the 1995 rule affected 1·1 million people across the UK and that the changes that were brought in in 2011 increased that to over 2·5 million women, who are having to work the extra year. A massive proportion of the population is being impacted by this. Needless to say, it is no shock or surprise that it was Tory Governments in 1995 and in 2011 who introduced the changes, but we have a local —