Updated: May 30, 2019
Just before the new year of 2018 I was asked to write about what I hoped for in the year to come as an SNP councillor. One of the three things I said I wanted to do was to get pension justice for fifties-born women and I am happy to say we now have a Scottish-based charity called Feisty Women to do just that.
Feisty Women was launched in Dundee by myself and co-founder, business owner Ann Porter.
Our campaign seeks to bring the DWP to book over what we see as the UK Government’s failure to comply with the 2010 Equalities Act, which demanded new public service equality duties.
This has led to discrimination under two protected characteristics of the Act – sex and age, directly against this cohort of women.
Our contention is that the 2011 Pensions Reform Act, which accelerated the age at which women were to receive their pensions, coming on top of two previous pension act changes in 1995 and then again in 2007 is having a massively negative impact on women with no savings, poor health and unpaid caring responsibilities.
George Osborne, at a global financial conference in 2013, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that accelerating the state pension age for women in 2011 saved more money than anything else - and was not controversial. In other words, it’s clear it was a quick-win, austerity measure and not as the Government claimed an equalising of the pension age between men and women.
We accept that people are living longer. However, a recent House of Commons report acknowledges that while women may live longer, men receive more pension income because they are often members of workplace schemes. According to very recent Office for National Statistics data, life expectancy for British women is now the lowest in the 20 richest countries and fifties-born women are set to die younger than men of the same age (75.7 compared to 76.1 years). Pensions consultants Mercer calculate the UK gender pay gap of 16 per cent, has helped create a gender pensions gap of 40 per cent.
As Sarah Pennells, of women’s finance website SavvyWoman.co.uk, puts it: “Even if women had been given the full 15 years’ notice of a rise in their state pension age, it would only help those who could save extra to make up the difference. And many women couldn’t.”
Maike Currie, Investment Director at Fidelity International, warns: “The pension system is relatively equal if people follow the same working pattern from age 20 to retirement, but they don’t.”
We have had massively constrained earnings and savings ability – 85% of us had children and rapidly shouldered the “double burden” of working and caring for kids and relatives. That meant dropping out of higher education, making do with low-paid jobs instead of building up a well-paid career and missing out on state benefits aimed at full-time workers, single women and men.
On average, we will lose £45,000 each from the raising of the pension age alone, on top of the £29,000 average gender pay gap loss over our lifetime.
With any other massive financial change, the immediate and biggest losers have been cushioned. Fifties-born women have not had any cushion.
That’s why we want to challenge the Government – we have been wronged and they need to make it right and give us damages. We need to raise money to get lawyers to look over our evidence in the first instance and confirm whether we can take a group litigation action for damages against the Government.
If you would like to contribute to the Feisty Women legal fund please go to