State Pension: Impact of Changes on Women

Part of Opposition Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:00 pm on 26th September 2016.

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Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP 6:00 pm, 26th September 2016

Let me make some progress, if I can.

In 2010, women reaching state pension age would, on average, spend 41% of their adult life in receipt of state pension. The figure for men was only 31%, owing to the longer life expectancy and earlier state pension age for women. The equalisation process was designed to treat men and women equally. The Pensions Act 2012, which Mr Durkan referred to earlier, accelerated the timetable so that women's state pension age will now be 65 by November 2018, rather than by April 2020. It also brought forward the increase in state pension age to 66 for men and women by October 2020, rather than by 2026. The original policy intention was that state pension age would reach 66 by April 2020. However, that would have resulted in some women experiencing a further increase in their state pension age of up to two years. Therefore, during the passing of the equivalent Pensions Act 2011, the Government made a concession, costing around £1 billion, that delayed the increase in state pension age to 66 by six months. That ensured that no woman would experience an additional increase in her state pension age of more than 18 months, relative to the 1995 timetable.

Over the years, changes to state pension age have been promulgated in a variety of ways. For example, as long ago as 2001, Minister Morrow launched a pensions education campaign to encourage people to plan for retirement. The campaign was supported by a series of leaflets, including one entitled, 'Pensions for women – Your guide' that included a ready reckoner to allow women to see what their new state pension age would be and a telephone helpline from which people could request more information. In subsequent years, information has been available through a variety of sources, including state pension forecasts, websites and direct mailing. For example, Northern Ireland citizens born between 6 April 1953 and 5 April 1960 were issued with a letter by the former Social Security Agency to advise them of the changes to state pension age flowing from the 2012 Act.

I turn to the Department for Work and Pensions estimate, and this gets to Mr Durkan's suggestion that we should break parity. I believe that, regarding a UK position, we are right to argue against what has been happening, but for someone to argue that Northern Ireland should take a separate approach is, I suggest, not just foolish but entirely reckless when it comes to the use of public funding.