State Pension  

Pension postcode lottery for women over 60

Pension postcode lottery for women over 60

Women over the age of 60 are suffering from a postcode lottery in terms of how severely the pension age hike is affecting their retirement, official data has shown.

Information from the House of Commons Library showed the rise in the number of women over 60 taking job seekers allowance and universal credit out-of-work benefits was particularly high in the north of England and Scotland, while changes in the south and east were non-existent or minimal.

The data showed that half of the top ten areas with the highest increase in benefits claims were from the north of England.

By comparison, no region in the south made it into the top ten.

For example, Newcastle upon Tyne reported an increase of 1133 per cent in the number of women over 60 taking out such benefits between 2013 and 2018.

Lancashire constituency Hyndburn saw an increase of 1060 per cent while 1000 per cent more women in north-western Morecambe and Lunesdale are now taking out-of-work benefits than five years ago.

Newton Abbot, in the south west, was the only constituency to see a decrease at -15 per cent, while Epsom and Ewell, South Cambridgeshire and Aldershot — all in the south or east — were in the ten locations with the lowest increase.

The state pension age has been set at 65 for men since 1925 and was equalised for women in November.

Plans to increase the state pension age were first announced in the Pension Act 1995 but these changes were accelerated as part of the Pension Act 2011.

Latest figures showed the number of women aged 60 and over taking out-of-work benefits across the country hiked 183 per cent in the past five years, when the increases in the state pension age started to take effect.

Despite higher benefit claims being located in the north of England, data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed a greater increase in women affected by the pension age hike in the south than in the north.

For example, 109,700 more women were over 60 yet unable to collect their state pension in 2018 than 2016 in the north, compared with 164,000 more women affected in the south.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said the data showed the level of impact of the changes might be connected to how wealthy a region is.

He said it was "unsurprising" as those who are less wealthy will be less able to cover the income shortfall caused by the state pension age increase and will be "forced to live off another benefit".

According to Mr Selby, having a universal age at which state pensions are paid — the government's new system — was probably the simplest framework but "the big negative" was that it would hit the poorest the hardest.

Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister, agreed that women in wealthier areas would be able to handle the age hike more easily.

He added: "For a woman in good health who lives in an area where jobs are plentiful, working for longer is likely to be a realistic option."