This weekend I outlined Labour’s plans to help end the plight of the hundreds of thousands of women abandoned to live in poverty by the Tory Government’s changes to their state pension age.
The Government has completely failed to act to address the plight of these older women. That’s why as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, alongside Alex Cunningham MP, our Shadow Pensions Minister, I’ve announced that Labour are committing to the extension of Pension Credit to support the vulnerable women affected by the Government’s chaotic approach to the state pension.
Under the plan, Pension Credit will be extended to those who were due to retire before the pension age increase of the Conservative-led Coalition Government. This would alleviate the worst of the impacts for the most vulnerable women, and restore some of the dignity many of them feel they have been robbed of. It would provide support worth up to £155 per week to half a million of the most vulnerable WASPI women.
We call on the Government to address the concerns that are being raised by thousands of women up and down the country by implementing our proposals. They must follow Labour’s lead and act immediately to minimise any further hardship.
Labour is also developing solutions for those affected who would not be entitled to means-tested Pension Credit under these proposals.
Many WASPI women are struggling now. One woman, a 61 year old now having to live with a friend, told WASPI campaigners how she receives just £8 a week from a private pension and is worried how she will afford basics such as dental treatment. The Government have accepted that she is not fit for work, while also saying she isn’t eligible for ESA. She had to walk to the job centre every day, even in the snow with her walking stick. She was let down in the last Parliament, and now this Government is letting her down again.
The Government’s changes have affected women who would normally have retired earlier under the 1995 Pensions Act. Labour plans to extend eligibility to Pension Credit to these women, ensuring that they are not forced into the Government’s punitive social security regime.
Labour is calling on the Government to implement these plans in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement to give vulnerable women in our country some stability until their delayed state pension is available. The concession would operate for affected women up to 2022.
Sadly the Pensions Minister has issued a point blank refusal to do anything to alleviate the worse cases claiming that the current social security system was sufficient to meet the needs of everyone. Labour are now acting where the Government has refused.
- The state pension age was increased under the 1995 Pensions Act. This timetable was shortened by the Coalition Government in the 2011 Pensions Act.
- Labour’s proposal is to return eligibility for Pensions Credit to the state pension age timetable of the 1995 Pensions Act, but with the qualifying age continuing to increase to 66 by 2022.
- This policy costs £860 million over this parliamentary term.
- Labour will reverse the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business made by the former Chancellor to cover the one-off cost of this measure.