Government tells Waspi working longer is good for them

Government tells Waspi working longer is good for them

The government has rejected a parliamentary petition calling for women to be granted early access to their state pension, claiming that working longer is beneficial to physical and mental health.

The request was also rejected on the grounds that it would harm the economy and would be actuarially complicated.

The comments were made after the petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures, the threshold at which the government is obliged to respond.

The petition was launched in mid-February by Waspi Voice, a splinter group led by founding members of the Women Against State Pension Inequality, or Waspi, campaign.

It called for early access to the state pension for women born in the 1950s who were caught by changes to the state pension age.

It said the changes, which the campaigners claim were poorly communicated, had left many women "with insufficient funds to meet their existing financial commitments".

The number of signatories reached 10,000 within two weeks. As of Monday morning (6 March), the petition had more than 13,000 signatures.

The government's response read: "The points made in this petition have been considered by the government. No further changes can be justified given the underlying imperative must be to focus public resources on those most in need."

The government claimed allowing early an retirement option would result in "additional cost to the state from the loss of taxes", even if the payments themselves were not greater.

It claimed that adding one year to working lives would result in "sustained increases" to GDP of over 1 per cent.

It then addressed the health benefits of an extended working life.

"Working longer can improve and maintain physical and mental health – evidence shows that making adjustments and changing working patterns can help older workers to manage health issues and stay in work," the government stated.

"Beyond financial matters, 38 per cent of retirees said they missed work for the 'social interaction', according to a DWP poll."

The government claimed a reduced pension "would complicate state pension outcomes" and could increase demand for means-tested support amongst pensioners. 

The statement said women affected by the changes would be eligible for working age benefits and programmes such as Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme.

"Supporting individuals aged 50 and over to remain in the labour market and tackling their barriers is a government priority," the government stated.

The statement concluded: "The government has been very clear. There will be no further changes to current arrangements or any financial redress in lieu of pensions."

Marion Smulders, Waspi co-founder and spokesperson for Waspi Voice, told FTAdviser the government's response was expected.

However, she said it did not "consider women who for whatever reason can't work, nor does it consider the gruelling work programmes women have to endure".

She went on: "Not all women are fit enough to work longer, others have caring responsibilities, some would like to work but can't secure jobs." 

The petition now has until 14 August 2017 to gather 100,000 signatures, at which point it must be considered for debate in parliament.