Battle over pensions for women 'far from over'

A generation of stay-at-home mothers could face retirement in “poverty” as a result of a government pensions u-turn, a Norfolk peer has said. Campaigners believe older women have been “penalised” for taking time out of work to look after children by a government decision which rules out a scheme to extend the ability of people to make up for missed National Insurance contributions.

A generation of stay-at-home mothers could face retirement in “poverty” as a result of a government pensions u-turn, a Norfolk peer said last night .

Campaigners believe older women have been “penalised” for taking time out of work to look after children by a government decision which rules out a scheme to extend the ability of people to make up for missed National Insurance contributions.

But last night Baroness Patricia Hollis said the fight was far from over and pledged she was in for a “long haul”.

“I'm blowed if I am going to see women who have spent years as carers looking after other people and doing the decent thing being punished for it,” she said.


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The Labour peer, who was granted the honorary Freedom of the City of Norwich this month , introduced an amendment to the 2007 Pensions Bill in July which would have allowed women with a National Insurance shortfall to buy back up to nine years worth of missing contributions.

Baroness Hollis, a former leader of Norwich City Council, a UEA history lecturer and later dean, believed she had reached an “understanding” with the minister who agreed the government would do its best to “deliver the principles” of what she was asking.

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However, a u-turn was discovered on Monday after Baroness Hollis tabled a question in the House of Lords.

“It was greeted with gasps of dismay by peers from all sides,” she added.

“Virtually all men retire with a full pension but only 30pc of women do. A lot of women could end up in poverty as a result of the shortfall.

“It is not over, it simply means we are in for the long haul rather than going down the route I thought we had agreed.”

The government suffered an overwhelming defeat in the Lords earlier this year when the amendment to the bill was passed by 179 votes to 86.

Only three out of 10 of Britain's 12 million women over the age of 45 are entitled to a full state pension.

This proportion is however, expected to rise after a recent decision to decrease the number of years of NI payments needed to claim a full pension from 44 to 30.

But campaigners complain this is insufficient to help the millions of pensioners and women who stayed at home with their children who will retire before 2025.

Age Concern said the government had “quietly backtracked” by announcing that no changes to the current rules would be made.

Michelle Mitchell, Age Concern's communications director, said: “This is a slap in the face for thousands of women in or approaching retirement who are being penalised for taking time out of work to care.

“There's no doubt that reforms to the pensions system from 2010 will be good news for women born after April 1950 but this will be cold comfort for the thousands born before this date. Even when the reforms come into effect in 2010, a quarter of women reaching state pension age will still not receive a full basic state pension.

“Everyone approaching retirement should be given the opportunity to make more flexible National Insurance contributions, to ensure an adequate income in later life. The government's shameful u-turn on this important amendment will condemn many more women to poverty.”

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