Pensions  

Baroness Altmann was shut down by government over Waspi

 

The government was completely and utterly unwilling to consider changes to help women affected by state pension age rises, the former pensions minister has claimed.

 

Baroness Ros Altmann, who left government in the post-referendum reshuffle in July this year, told FTAdviser: "I can tell you I was the only minister who was trying to do anything.

"Everyone else was saying 'these are laws which were made in 2011 and we are not going to spend taxpayers' money, not even a penny, in trying to change it'."

She mentioned the petition she started in 2011 when she was director general of Saga, to highlight the issue and encourage women to write to their MPs.

There had also been a successful social media campaign in the years since, which Baroness Altmann said had helped to get the issue on the agenda of parliament and politicians.

Despite this, she said by the time of her tenure as pensions minister: "The government unfortunately was totally and utterly unwilling to consider any changes whatsoever.

"I was instructed not to engage with the issue, not to talk to the women, [and] to dismiss everything. 

"I kept looking at ways to help the women who were in real hardship. Many of them may have been simply unaware of what was going to happen. I still think it would be right to see how we can help men and women who will be affected by the short notice change in the SPA."

She said the lack of communication about rises to women's state pension age was predominantly to blame for the ensuing anger among women, which has spurred the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign.

Baroness Altmann said: "It is disappointing the government in 2011 did not listen to people such as myself, who were trying to explain the position women who were going to be targeted for a second SPA increase would be in.

"It was clear then these women had very little chance to build up a private pension when they were younger, and did not have the chances that women now have to build up a state pension.

"Lo and behold we came into 2015, coming up to the time when the first lot of the extra increases were going to start, a lot of women who simply hadn't known these pension age rises were coming suddenly started to find out about them."

Baroness Altmann said: "I worked probably more on communication than on many other areas of policy and yet somehow the DWP does not seem to be able to get how to communicate.

"The 1995 Pensions Act changes were simply not properly communicated to women who were going to be affected by them."

It is still a problem, she added. Baroness Altmann was also concerned there has been no "major national advertising campaign" from government to highlight the fact that, by 2020 - "just four years away", nobody will be getting their state pension at age 65.