State pension age ‘should be reduced to 63’ as ill-health leaves Britons unable to work
Thérèse Coffey confirms they are 'not reviewing state pension age'
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They say forcing everyone to work later and later in life is unfair on the sick, and those doing manual or stressful jobs. Older workers have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic and many will struggle to find new work as recruiters favour younger employees.
New figures showing that life expectancy is now falling have strengthened the case for a lower retirement age of 63 or even 60, campaigners say.
Yet the Government insists lowering the state pension age is too expensive and it will press ahead with plans to increase it to 67 from 2026, and then again to 68.
The state pension age is being pushed back to keep pace with average life expectancy, but that is now falling.
Life expectancy at birth dropped by 7.8 weeks in England and 11 weeks in Scotland between 2018 and 2020, new figures from the Office for National Statistics show.
Covid was partly to blame yet even before the pandemic, life expectancy growth was slowing.
Regional variations are stark, as a person born in Blackpool can expect to live, on average, a decade less than someone born in Westminster.
Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell, said falling life expectancy will heap pressure on the Government to rethink the planned state pension age hike to 67 from 2026. “Allowing early state pension access at a reduced rate would potentially help address this unfairness.”
More than one in three aged between 50 and 66 would consider taking their state pension if it was an option, early at a lower rate, AJ Bell’s research shows.
Former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann called for people in poor health or financial to be given early access to the state pension, especially if they have built up decades of qualifying National Insurance contributions.
The state pension makes no allowances for poverty, regional differences or workers doing stressful, manual jobs, she said. “Forcing everyone to wait longer for their state pension has harsh impacts on the least well-off.”
Many may never receive any state pension at all despite making decades of National Insurance contributions, because they die before age 66, Baroness Altmann added.
Among over-55s who retired early, almost six in 10 had no choice, according to research by Just Group. A third did so due to poor health or physical problems, while 17 percent had lost their job and eight percent had caring responsibilities.
Only one in four retired early because their pension and savings were enough to afford their retirement.
Dennis Reed, director at Silver Voices, said workplace ageism is a major problem and attitudes to older workers have not kept pace with the rising state pension age. “After you reach 50, any life crisis can plunge you into poverty because employers look for younger and cheaper workers and do not recognise caring responsibilities.”
Many have been forced out of the jobs market for good due to the pandemic and face severe hardship until they reach retirement age, Mr Reed said. “The state’s safety net is miserly and workplace pensions are not as good as they used to be.”
Almost three million over 50s are now seeking work and more than half believe their age has impacted the likelihood of being hired.
A further 17 percent said poor health hit their search for work, while almost one in 10 struggled due to caring responsibilities, according to a new report by Legal & General Retail Retirement and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
There are still over 360,000 people age 55 and over on furlough and Emily Andrews, deputy director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said we risk a fresh wave of redundancies now it has ended. “This is particularly worrying because the over 50s struggle more than any other group to get back into work after redundancy.”
Steven Cameron, pensions director at insurer Aegon, said there is a case for allowing people to choose to take an early state pension at age 63, but people may have to accept a lower income. “This would reflect the fact it is starting earlier and may therefore be paid for longer.”
He said flexibility would be fair given that those who have workplace and personal pensions can draw theirs from age 55.
A new Parliamentary petition calling for state pension age to be reduced to 63 to help those doing physical jobs such as bricklayers and HGV drivers has gathered 12,000 signatures, but that is well short of the 100,000 required for a debate.
The Government has responded to the petition saying: “Successive governments and Parliaments have supported the increase in state pension age. Reducing it to 63 is neither affordable nor fair to taxpayers and future generations.”
It has previously estimated that if the state pension age had not increased for both men and women, it would cost taxpayers an extra £215 billion for the 15 years to the 2025/26 tax year.
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
The state pension age is reviewed every six years and the Government will publish its next report in May 2023.
Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, said the NPC believes the state pension age should go back to 65 in the first instance, with a drop to 60 over time.
She said many over 50s have been made sick due to poor working conditions, stress, management behaviour, constant changes and increased workload.
“Taking away the dedicated retirement age does not generally encourage employers to hire older people. This is an ageist country,” she said, adding that many companies do not see older people as viable employees regardless of their knowledge, experience, flexibility and work ethic.
“Those who are unable to work to retirement age through ill health are consigned to means-tested benefits.
“Those who have lost work because they can no longer fit with changes and workloads find themselves on the merry go round of Universal Credit. The knowledge that employers just look at your age is one thing, proving it is another. So ageism is compounded.”
Ms Shortt also pointed out that reasons for working beyond retirement age vary.
“For some it is the motivation to carry on, get out of bed in the morning, have something worthwhile that they are proud of,” she said.
“For many, it is the fact that the basic state pension in the UK is the most inadequate in the economically developed world and there is no other option.”
As part of a three-part series, Express.co.uk has spoken to a number of people about their experience of working once 55+. This Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, three Britons will share their story.
Cathie Cassidy is hoping she can carry on working for two more years before her state pension kicks in, but her osteoarthritis is making it a struggle.
Cathie, 64, from Bedfordshire, says her job as a retail manager is getting more challenging by the day. “I’m worried my condition will deteriorate and I won’t be able to cope any longer.”
Like 3.8 million women born in the 1950s, Cathie was caught out by Government moves to increase the state pension age from 60 to 66.
She feels it is unfair that people have to battle on for so long to claim their state pension. “Age 66 is too high, especially for those with health conditions.”
Cathie has worked all her adult life and made 40 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions.
“If you’ve worked all those years, you should be able to go at 63 without a financial comeback,” she said.
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