“Four carrots in the fridge. That’s my life”: readers respond to pension changes

Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where women affected by changes to the st

Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where women affected by changes to the state pension age have lost their landmark High Court fight against the Government. Picture Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Liz Nice's column about the 1950s born women trapped in pension limbo prompted a big response from readers. Here are some of the best letters we received...

Aylsham woman reveals how the loss of her state pension left her penniless. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Aylsham woman reveals how the loss of her state pension left her penniless. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

Last week, my column 'I fear the women trapped in pension limbo will end up living on dog food' prompted a big response from readers.

Clearly, this is an issue that many people in our region are affected by and their voices need to be heard.

This is 2019. These are women who have worked all the lives but many of whom are now living on the breadline.

I stand by what I said.

The Norfolk Broads PAIN group held a rally to protest changes to the womens state pension age in Nor

The Norfolk Broads PAIN group held a rally to protest changes to the womens state pension age in Norwich city centre. Picture: JESSICA FRANK-KEYES - Credit: Jessica Frank-Keyes

Yes, it's fair that men and women should have the same retirement age.

No, it's not fair that women who were expecting to retire at 60 have had the goalposts moved before the world of employment, and they, had a chance to catch up.

Some sort of hardship fund is needed - in my view.

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Readers have raised other issues. Here are some of the strongest views who are able to make their points far better than I can, because they are living through this now.

"Four carrots in the fridge. That's my life"

I was born in 1955 and I'm on JSA - Job Seeker's Allowance - and have been for the past five years.

The Government's decision to raise SPA has devastated my life. I use food banks, sit in the dark and go to bed at nine o'clock to save electric. Jessica from the EDP did a report on me. When they filmed me opening my fridge to have a drink, there were four carrots on a shelf. That's my life. I used to buy fresh flowers once a month and buy Dove moisturiser as basic items. Now I class them as a luxury and can't afford them. I do not live. I exist from one day to another.


"Successive governments have spent our money"

I, like many thousands of women born in the 1950s was not informed that I would have to work until I was 66.

I am a single woman, divorced in 2003, without any children.

Whilst in the process of selling and buying a house in 2011, the company I worked for went into liquidation and I had to find a new job. I was 54. Luckily I found one but with a salary considerably lower than my previous one. I subsequently had to take out a mortgage on the new property. I worked out the figures and with my pension kicking in at 60 (so I thought) I was happy to take on this extra financial burden.

My mortgage finishes in three years (2022). My salary hasn't increased substantially - certainly not in line with increased costs of electricity, gas, water, petrol etc.

I envisage working until I am at least 70 with no hope of retiring at 66. It will take me a few years to save up some rainy day money for my retirement.

I suffer with arthritis - luckily it isn't debilitating at the moment - but I do fear for my mobility in the future.

I have no husband or partner who can help.

Governments past have spent our pension pot. That's the truth. To hike up our retirement age by six years is totally wrong. Forget equality with men. Some women are not fit nor able to continue to work. Especially those who have done farm work or worked the land. They are worn out. Will they become a drain on social security?

My feeling is. Let us 1950s women draw our pension. Take our retirement and let young people move into the jobs we have vacated.

Whichever government does this will have my vote for life.

Support Back to 60.

Gill Hawkes

'Private arrangements are more vital than ever'

The Backto60 campaign appears to accept equal retirement ages for men and women at some point so the key question is whether women born towards the end of the 50s require more favourable treatment than those born in later decades. Should someone born in 1959 retire 10 years earlier than someone born in 1962? A woman born in 1959 would have seen a large increase in her State Pension Age but would have seen other mitigating changes:

1 She would have started work after the implementation of the Sex Discrimination Act

2 NI Credits for parents who take time out to look after young children have been introduced

3 Legislation to ensure that Pension assets are shared after a divorce has been introduced

4 The State Pension post 2016 is more generous than pre 2016.

The question would be whether women born in the late 50s saw the full benefit of those changes.

My gut feeling is that the 1995 changes were introduced with enough notice but that some of the 2011 changes were not. The area where women born in the late 50s possibly have been disadvantaged compared to women born later is in regard to the NI Credits, correcting this would be by retrospectively awarding these credits and increasing their pension rather than reducing the State Pension Age.

It was quite clear in the 1980s that it was becoming increasingly difficult for men and women over 50 to find or remain in employment, ideally the State Pension Age would have been lowered to reflect this but that was unlikely to happen. Additionally it was becoming clear that the State Pension was falling in real terms and was unlikely to be enough to live on. Both the government and the financial services sector publicised this in a push to persuade us to make private arrangements for retirement. The changes implemented in 1995 to the State Pension Age were widely publicised. What this demonstrates is that for whatever reason these messages were either ignored or failed to reach everyone. Any campaign to reverse the 1995 changes should have been made then rather than 15 to 20 years later.

The Backto60 campaign probably has some cause for compensation for some but not all of their issues raised but it also highlights the need to try to make our own arrangements as the latest debate seems to be about raising the State Pension Age to 75.

John Holland

Are you being affected? We at the EDP will support you all we can by continuing to highlight this issue. Contact liz.nice@archant.co.uk