Former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann has called on the incoming prime minister to reform the way the state pension can be accessed.
Baroness Altmann urged a new government after the December General Election to consider differences in life expectancy and health, which should allow those in ill-health to have early access to the state pension.
She said: “Healthy life expectancy varies by around 19 years across the country, yet the state pension system will continue to increase the starting age. Unlike in a private pension, you cannot receive a penny early.
“Although only 35 years of NI are required for a full pension, but even with a 45 or 50 year record, people must still wait till after the starting age.
"It would perhaps be fairer to allow early access to state pension after, say, 45 years of contributions, or to recognise ill-health or caring duties. This would improve the role of state pensions as part of our welfare system.”
Setting out a policy manifesto to improve social justice Baroness Altmann also called on the government to extend the triple lock to pension credit and offer free personal care funded through NI to help improve retirement for women and the poorest pensioners.
Baroness Altmann said: “To look after the most vulnerable pensioners, (the majority of whom are women) requires a manifesto commitment to ensuring pension credit is increased by at least the same as the new state pension.
“If the triple lock stays, then it should apply to pension credit. If moving to a double lock (best of price or earnings rises) then pension credit should benefit the same way.”
At present the pension triple lock does not protect the poorest pensioners.
Under current rules, the state pension is increased by the ‘triple lock’ which is the highest of earnings growth, price inflation or 2.5 per cent a year.
But Pension Credit (£167.25 a week), the old graduated state pension, State Earnings Related Pension (Serps), and second state pension are only protected by CPI price inflation.
Baroness Altmann also wants the government to address how women in the 1950s were not “adequately informed” about changes to the state pension age.
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.
Campaign groups The Women Against State Pension Inequality and Backto60 have claimed these changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice.
The groups, which are calling for compensation for those affected, have also claimed that changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act and left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.
While Baroness Altmann doesn’t support paying those affected the equivalent of the state pension back to age 60, she thinks the women should be allowed to claim help from the NI system.
She said: “Past governments did not adequately inform the women affected and I hope the parties will consider early payments or pension credit for those affected by increased pension ages, to offset some of the hardship caused.”