Women who are expected to lose out on thousands of pounds as a result of the Government’s changes to the pension age are being told to think about claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance instead, by a Conservative minister.
Shailesh Vara is a work and pensions minister. He suggested unemployment benefits as a possible source of income for the millions of women who will have to wait 18 months longer to receive pension entitlements, because the state pension age is increasing from 60 to 65 by 2018. The comments came shortly before a debate took place in Westminster, influenced by a petition of over 140,000. The Government made the pension reforms in 2011 and campaigners are saying that they are too rushed, failing to give working women enough time to plan for their retirement.
Research conducted on behalf of the Labour party found that over 2.5 million women who were born during the 1950’s will be affected by the reform. However, any form of compensation for these women has been ruled out. Mr Vara said the reform needs to be viewed ‘in a broader context’. He said to MPs that there were ‘a whole lot’ of other benefits available to women who are affected, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and Personal Independence Payments. He said that we should not forget that pensions will be uprated and that the new simplified State Pension starts from April. He also cited an increase in cold weather payments and protected winter fuel payments as a good thing for pensioners. All of these options contributed to the ‘broader context’ that Mr. Vara spoke of.
The former work and pensions secretary said that Mr. Vara’s comments were ‘outrageous’, adding that women do not want unemployment benefits, they want the pension that they are entitled to. The shadow work and pensions minister Angela Rayner said that it was ‘shocking’ to suggest Job Seeker’s Allowance as an alternative. She added that by accelerating the rise in the female state pension age and not communicating the changes effectively, ‘millions of families’ feel as if their plans for their later life have been ‘ruined’. She said that the petition was a ‘testament of strength’ to the campaign.
The debate in Westminster Hall was led by the Labour MP Helen Jones who said that she was also of an age which would be affected by the pension reforms. However, a number of Conservative MPs also voiced their concerns and called for transitional relief for the women who were going to be affected.