This new film released today covers both the reaction to the Judicial Review hearing last month and the birth of the People’s Tribunal. It also shows that under BackTo60’s leadership the two are interlinked.
The BackTo60 campaign was aimed to help 3.8 million women born in the 1950s get full restitution for their pensions. The People’s Tribunal has a hugely enlarged audience covering all women and girls in the United Kingdom and seeking to end the discrimination against all women.
Both are linked by injustice. The 50sWomen campaign wants restitution for the implementation of unfair laws – the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Pensions Act because of the adverse effect on one large group of women.
The People’s Tribunal want the UK to bring into domestic law the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw).
The UK is already signed up to the convention – Margaret Thatcher did so in 1986 – but unlike other countries has not put the convention into UK law. The UK has also never appointed a representative to sit on the UN committee in Geneva either.
Any such legislation would transform women’s rights to fight discrimination and have a massive effect on the legal system of this country.
It would also give women a massive confidence boost that they would know beyond doubt they are equal to men and if they are treated any worse than men have a powerful tool to pursue any injustice through law.
Some people might think that in modern Britain women already do have equal rights with men. But when you think that despite equal pay laws and an Equality Act under the Blair Labour government, many women still do not have equal pay now nor do they have equal progression in their chosen career.
Despite strides – including all women short lists – there is not equal representation in Parliament among MPs and women more than men suffer domestic abuse.
Professor Jackie Jones, who was an expert witness in the judicial review and is part of the People’s Tribunal team, explains all of this very well in another YouTube video which you can watch below.
Finally all this going to cost money and today the People’s Tribunal launch a big crowdfunding appeal to set up and run the tribunal. They need to raise £75,000 but it will be worth every penny. The link top the crowdfunder is here.
Revised figure doubled for ” men only national insurance subsidy”
The Department for Work and Pensions has revised the estimated number of men over 60 who received what are known as ” auto credits” towards getting a full pension from 4.65m to 9.8m between 1983 and 2018.
The 4.65 million figure was already staggeringly high but the new figure is more than double the number previously disclosed. It is also well over double the number of 1950s born women who are currently waiting for their pension for up to six years.
The scale of the payments has been kept quiet by the Department for Work and Pensions for 37 years. It was only revealed last month when Myfanwy Opeldus, one of 3.8 million women facing now a six year delay to get her pension, got the admission from the ministry through a Freedom of Information request.
Letter issued after court hearing
Yesterday the Department for Work and Pensions wrote to her again raising the figure to 9.8 million. The letter came just after the Court of Appeal hearing into the judicial review this week heard about the plight of women affected by the rise in the pension age and was told by Michael Mansfield about the men receiving ” auto credits” which was not known at the time of the first judicial review.
The new disclosure makes it even more galling for the women who were originally promised they would have their national insurance contributions paid between 2010 and 2018 only to have the offer withdrawn a year before it was due to start. A number have had to pay thousands of pounds to make up the sum for a full pension while others simply have not been able to afford it.
The letter does say that not all 9.8 million men would have benefited as some would have died, others would have full insurance records and some would have been working abroad.
enormous subsidy for men
Nevertheless the scale of the subsidy must be enormous and a benefit for people years after it was offered by Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of Exchequer in 1983, to encourage men to get off the dole to keep the very high unemployment numbers down at the time.
This story seems to get worse and worse so let us hope there will some justice from the courts for all the women concerned.
Judges are inscrutable. Like wise old owls you can never be sure what they are thinking. This week’s two day hearing of the Court of Appeal into the rejected judicial review on behalf of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who saw their pension age rise from 60 to 66 was no exception.
However the proceedings were extraordinary for a number of reasons. For a start the introduction of new technology clashed with the traditional proceedings of the courts.
Hit by Covid 19, the Court of Appeal decided that ” public interest ” in the case was so great that it should be live streamed with some of the judges and lawyers contributing via video link. They were justified with audiences over 2000 peaking at one point to just below 4000 – Court No 71 could never hold anything near that number ever, Covid 19 or not. Now two days later it has been seen by over 16,000 people.
For the first day it worked. But during the second day it ran into a number of technical problems -including cutting people off. And at the very end of the day the technology fizzled out for me so I didn’t see the very last part of the hearing . I have now seen it and Michael Mansfield makes a strong defence of why 50s women have been so badly affected by the delay in the pension age, citing one case where a woman contemplated suicide. He also emphasised the failure to notify people properly, saying there was a common law duty to do so.
Henrietta Hill was questioned by the judges about indirect and direct sex and age discrimination and how the lawyers saw their case being applied.
The judges reserved judgement which means it could be a few months before there is a decision.
Judges were engaged
The three judges presiding over the hearing were engaged with the debate.. The Master of the Rolls, 69 year old Sir Terence Etherton, is also president of the Property Bar Association and chairman of the Trust Law Committee and a visiting professor at Birkbeck College. In his youth he was a fencer and a member of the GB International Fencing Team, including being selected for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Underhill, 68, is a former president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal so well versed in complex cases. He also is a former Attorney General to the Prince of Wales.
Lady Justice Dame Vivien Rose,60, is the most recently appointed appeal judge of the three, is an expert in EU and UK competition law, tax, has been a Treasury legal adviser and held a post in the Ministry of Defence as Director of Operations and International Humanitarian Law during the Gulf War. Unlike the other two judges, who were educated at public schools, she was educated at a London comprehensive school and is the first lawyer in her family. She also sings in a choir.
Given this expertise of the judges it was extraordinary that Sir James Eadie, QC, the Treasury First Counsel, nicknamed the ” Treasury devil” should try to get the Judicial review declared unlawful.
He was building on the questioning in the previous judicial review which raised whether Ms Justice Dame Beverley Lang was right in granting the judicial review for the 3.8 million women in the first place.
He was shot down with a rapier like comment from the Master of the Rolls who pointed out he could have raised this immediately after her judgement at a special hearing and again when the judicial review was heard.
” Not in my brief” -Sir James Eadie
His reply was “it was not in my brief from the DWP ” and talked about ” the bigger picture”. My interpretation of that is Amber Rudd, then works and pensions secretary, would have been well aware that to strike out a review for 3.8 million women would have been political dynamite and caused widespread furore well beyond the actual case.
But Sir James persisted citing judgments which said that the case could have been held in 1995 as soon as the Pension Act was passed. Michael Mansfield,QC dealt with that claim in his summing up.
What is important is that the judges were really engaged with the arguments and tested both sides equally. They looked at the notification ( or non) notification issue of the pension age rise, listened to the arguments involving EU law and the relevance of the UN Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and noted the auto credits issue which allowed 4.6 million men over 60 from 1983 to 2018 to have their national insurance contributions paid by the state.
Sir James Eadie’s tactics seem to be to try and get most of the case law raised by Adam Straw and Henrietta Hill for the 50swomen ruled as irrelevant.
At one point the Master of the Rolls intervened to point out to Sir James that Adam Straw’s argument about one particular case was aimed at making a specific legal point not about the content of the case.
The other DWP tactic was to use out of date information. Sir James used 2011 as the reference for the continuing rise in longevity ( and pension payment costs) – the high point of the increase – ignoring it flatlining since. This I gather was corrected by Michael Mansfield later.
Sir James also got it wrong when he said the purpose of the case was to reduce the pension age to 60 for all women. It isn’t. It is to fully compensate the 3.8 million women who feel cheated about waiting six years for a pension and not being properly told about the change.
The DWP switched tactics over the economic plight of the 1950s women – in the original judicial review he made great play of the fact they were not worse off but some were well off.
This time he acknowledged that 1950s women faced economic disadvantages and social ills but these, he argued, were nothing to do with the raising of the pension age.
For people watching this case it must have seemed a bit arcane that it is based on case law rather than – though Michael Mansfield did highlight their catastrophic plight – going into detail of the hardships of 50swomen. Full statements on the hardships faced by the two women cited in the case were passed to the judges by Michael Mansfield.
Now for a judgment. The point of a judicial review is to question the administration of a policy to see if it was fit for purpose and had not disadvantaged people.
Therefore don’t expect a judgement ordering the women must have all the money. But you could expect a judgement saying the system cheated them which will have to lead to action by the government to redress the matter.
Either way win or lose the BackTo60 campaign will be considerably enhanced by the outcome of this case – because it highlights the women’s plight and will be a force to reckon with. Going to law is much more powerful than trying to persuade MPs.
After all very few campaigners can claim to have their case examined by the Master of the Rolls and I know BackTo60 lawyers are delighted that they got an appeal on all the points they raised in the first judicial review.
The success of the crowdfunding appeal by BackTo60 campaigning group to run a series of films exposing the plight of 1950s born women yet to get their pension has been partly due to campaigning trade unionists.
As well as getting a large number of small donations from many of the women themselves, two grassroots campaigners from the trade union movement managed to raise an astonishing £3400 towards the campaign.
Mac Hawkins from Unison and Louise Matthews from Unite – both women’s officers at their local branches – and strong supporters of BackTo60.
Mac Hawkins got support from the Wales region of Unison and Louise Matthews got support from Unite’s Equality Team and Unite Companions.
But the key thing is how much money they got from their local branches Mac Hawkins raised some £1400 from her Caerphilly branch while Louise Matthews got support from her Unite branch in Southampton.
Both have been tirelessly campaigning to get money for the films which will form a key part of keeping the issue in the public eye before BackTo60 appeal the judicial review decision on July 21.
The one sad thing in this story is that at national level in both unions there appears to be a cooling off in financing the campaign. Before the general election, Unison and Unite contributed to the campaign, and Unison came alongside BackTo60 to deliver a petition to Downing Street.
This time the national unions are still supportive – but possibly because of the divisions within Waspi on what they want from the government, they may be holding back.
BackTo60 is sticking with full restitution and compensation for all the 3.8 million 50s women – while some other Waspi groups still have to spell out exactly how much compensation they want.
Today Backto60 launched the first of two campaigning films in the run up to their appeal against the judicial review decision in the Court of Appeal on July 21.
They aim to overturn the judicial review which rejected their claim for compensation and full restitution of their pension back to 60 which was rejected on all grounds by judges. They have been given permission by the Court of Appeal to appeal on all grounds.
The film shows how 50swomen – already waiting up to six years for their pensions – are now hit by the Covid-19 pandemic- forced to work in unsafe situations in their 60s in hospitals or care homes or left isolated facing mental health problems.
We now know through a report from the National Audit Office,Parliament’s financial watchdog, that 25,000 people were moved from hospital to care homes at the beginning of the pandemic without any health checks for Covid-19. No wonder so many died and Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Exeter Medical School, in the film condemns this as a disgrace.
The film quotes experts who have backed the campaign to point out how just how damaging the situation. You can follow them on Twitter here – @2020Comms @JackieJonesWal1 @ManzurHannah @DrDavinaLloyd1 @doctorshaib @NexusChambers @AnnaCCampaigns @SOS_Initiatives.
The overall picture is bleak – the combination of the pensions delay, austerity and now the virus- have made difficult lives even worse.
But there is also hope. Professor Jackie Jones points out that the UN Convention on the Elimation of Discrimination against Women – may well launch an inquiry into how badly the UK treated 50s women – shaming the country internationally.
The court case is likely to have to hear additional evidence on whether it was a really equal playing field if at the same time 4.6 million men over 60 are estimated by the Department for Work and Pensions to have had all their national insurance contributions paid by the government so they could get higher pensions. A government promise in the 1990s to extend this scheme to women for eight years after the change was introduced in 2010 was reneged on by the last Labour government and the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.
The film directed by Jasper Warry at Hello Dear Productions is eminently watchable and the experts explain their points succinctly – my only apology is that you have to put up visually with me having a shaggy lockdown non hair cut!
Successive governments extended a 1983 “men only national insurance subsidy” for 35 years and broke a promise to women born in the 1950s to offer them similar terms
More than 4.65 million men aged over 60 have had the last five years of their national insurance contributions paid by the state, the Department for Work and Pensions has disclosed.
The scale of the payments has been kept quiet by the Department for Work and Pensions for 37 years. It was only revealed last week when Myfanwy Opeldus, one of 3.8 million women facing now a six year delay to get her pension, got the admission from the ministry through a Freedom of Information request. She is a BackTo60 supporter and had been pursuing the government over this issue
The scheme was launched by the Thatcher government in 1983 when it was reeling from large scale unemployment even after its popularity had soared through victory in the Falklands War. Extraordinarily the scheme was only wound up in 2018 just two years agoand 35 years after it was launched.
The scheme- called auto credits – was announced in the 1983 Budget by the late Sir Geoffrey Howe , then Chancellor of the Exchequer, as one of four measures to get down the unemployment count which was over three million.
In his March Budget he announced:
“Some 90,000 men between the ages of 60 and 65 now have to register at an unemployment benefit office if they wish to secure contribution credits to protect their pension rights when they reach 65. From April, they will no longer have to do this.
Even if those concerned subsequently take up part-time or low-paid work on earnings which fall below the lower earnings limit for contributions, their pension entitlement will be fully safeguarded. ( my emphasis)”
Unemployment did fall and was half that level by 2018 when the scheme was dropped.
Yet neither successive chancellors Nigel Lawson, John Major , Norman Lamont,Kenneth Clarke , Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling did anything to repeal it.
In fact under Kenneth Clarke in 1993 the opposite happened. He decided as 50s born women were going to face waiting longer for their pensions, they should get some help. This was adopted by Labour in a leaflet issued in 2002 on pensions which announced it would be extended to 50s women from 2010 when the pension age for women started to rise.
But the Brown government then reneged on this in 2009 after the financial crisis.
Promises to 50s women reneged
An explanatory memorandum to changes in pension legislation said :
“When the Government published its plans for state pension age equalisation in 1993, the intention then was that as women’s pension age increased gradually to 65, autocredits would become available to them on the same basis as for men. This was in part to compensate for the increase in the number of years women would otherwise have to pay National Insurance contributions for in order to qualify for a full basic pension.
” This approach has since been reviewed, for two reasons. Firstly, the qualifying age for Pension Credit (the income-related benefit currently payable to men and women at 60 without jobseeking conditions attached) is set to increase to 65 by 2020 in line with female state pension age. Without the proposed change, autocredits would increasingly apply mainly to people who could afford not to work or claim benefit….
“Secondly, the reduction in the number of qualifying years needed for a full basic pension to 30 and the improvements in the crediting arrangements for carers under the measures introduced by the Pensions Act 2007 will mean that the need for autocredits to protect state pension entitlement will be significantly reduced….
” This instrument amends the Credits Regulations to provide that autocredits will be available to men only for the tax years in which they have reached what would be pension age for a woman of the same age, up to and including the last tax year before the one in which they reach age 65. Men born on 6 October 1954 or later,…, will not qualify for the credits.”
This meant it was phased out in 2018.
Meanwhile the new Tory and Liberal coalition elected in 2010 decided to raise the pension age further to 66 and also planned a new pension raising the qualification period to 35 years. The main architect was the pensions minister , Steve Webb, who moved a top job at Royal London Insurance. In an article in the Telegraph in September 2017 he backed men who could have overpaid NI contributions to claim the money back. He is now a financial consultant with Lane Clark and Peacock.
Yet another scandal
Now this entire scandal is yet another example of unfair treatment to 50s women.
The woman who raised this with the DWP is one of a number who has not got enough national insurance contributions to get a full pension. She falls short by three years and will have to pay them £3000 to make up the years to get another £400 a year.
A man – one of the 4.65 million who was covered by auto credits- would have to pay nothing. That is hardly fair. And he could take a low paid job and still not pay NI contributions as they would be covered by the state.
More seriously it does knock a hole in the DWP case that the raising of the pension age was an equality measure to create a level playing field with men.
It is hardly a level playing field if men on this huge scale are getting their national insurance contributions for free. What started as a measure for 90,000 ended up helping 4.6 million. No wonder the DWP were not happy to have to disclose this.
Roll on the appeal to the judicial review brought by BackTo60. Michael Mansfield could have a field day with these new facts.
A new and highly detailed research study by King’s College, London reveals that the lowest paid women born in the 1950s are now substantially worse off because of the government’s decision to raise their pension age from 60 to 66.
The damning findings confirm why the BackTo60 campaign are right to highlight the inequalities and seek to overturn a judicial review in July which refused to provide any compensation for 3.8 million women.
Since the situation is now even worse because of the huge death rate among the elderly it also shows how sensible it will be for the organisation to highlight the issue in two films that will be backed by a crowdfunder. The link to their crowdfunder, which has already raised over £5000 is here.
The academics at King’s College compared the fate of those who had already retired at 60 with those who were having to wait for their pension until they are 65 or 66.
They found the change in pension age widened inequality, increased poverty by six to eight points, caused much more depression and mental health issues and also made people more likely to succomb to additional health problems like diabetes or arthritis.
It was specifically bad for women who had to work longer in low paid jobs often involving manual labour, such as working in care homes.
In their academic language it says the “increases had a negative impact on health: women aged 60–64 years are no longer eligible to collect their pension due to the reform exhibit worse mental and physical health scores (PCSs) and higher prevalence of clinical depression than women of the same age unaffected by the reform.
Moreover, longer extensions of SPA [ State Pension Age] led to higher declines in mental health than shorter extensions. Crucially, the negative health effect of SPA postponement is confined to women from lower-grade routine occupations, and it is largely driven by longer exposure to adverse psychological and physical stressors. As a result, the reform had the undesirable consequence of increasing health inequality by occupational grade, as evidence points to a 12 percentage-point increase in the probability of depressive symptomatology.”
You can read the report, published in Health Economics, here.
It should put a spring in the step of lawyers like Michael Mansfield, who are fighting for BackTo60 in the forthcoming judicial review appeal and its findings ought to worry the Department for Work and Pensions as it exposes the damage they have done. Though making anyone there or in Downing Street remorseful for anything is a tall order.
And why the BackTo60 Facebook crowdfunder is essential to bring these sad facts for many more to light
This is a tragic tale that I suspect is being repeated across the UK now we have the largest number of deaths in Europe. It gives a little glimpse into the human cost behind the cold harsh statistics of the daily death toll. Her daughter contacted me and she agreed to be interviewed.
Ray and Lesley Myers thought they had their retirement well planned. He would get his pension at 65 and one year later she would get hers at 60.
He was a successful Welsh speaking self employed builder in North Wales. They had a comfortable four bedroomed house and two lovely daughters.
Then at 60 Ray developed cancer and was unable to work. They downsized from their four bed house to a one bed apartment in Chester.
Through the help of the NHS Countess of Chester Hospital & The Hospice of the Good Shepherd he was tackling his cancer and they were still looking forward to many more years together.
This winter Ray got pneumonia and went into the Countess of Chester Hospital. He got better , came out of hospital, but then fell ill again and was re-admitted.
Unfortunately for him he came back just as the Covid-19 was starting to spread across the UK. The doctors there also tried to press him to sign a ” do not resuscitate” form.
According to Lesley Myers the hospital did not have the right equipment to safeguard the staff or patients relying on paper masks and aprons. But they did regularly test him for Covid- 19. Three tests were negative, the last one was positive.
From there he deteriorated rapidly but his family heard nothing from the hospital and couldn’t visit him. Finally they allowed Lesley to visit him and provided her for the first time a gown and a medical mask. By then he was in a coma and close to death.
On April 7 aged 70 he died. The family have not been able to organise a proper funeral.
But the hospital have followed up her case and have got proper protection equipment and are changing the way they handle future cases.
Lesley then encountered all the problems from the Department for Work and Pensions. She was hours on the phone trying to claim bereavement benefit. The DWP just cut her off.
But they acted very quickly to stop his state pension,PIP, and ban her from being able to drive his mobility car. They still haven’t bothered to collect it one month later and it is parked at the apartment.
She found herself left with living on £420 a month – £320 from her own PIP as she is disabled and just £25 a week bereavement benefit. The widow’s pension has been abolished by the DWP. She has bills of £150 a month for council tax and another £100 for the apartment management charge.
She said :” How I am supposed to survive on this on this amount? ” I do have savings but do not know how long I will live for so do not wish to rely solely on this as I’m sure you can appreciate – I am only 64! “
“I am fortunate to have the support of my daughter and some savings but I ask you this for someone with nothing and all payments stopped immediately how would they now continue? “I am very concerned for other people left in the same situation or worse off than myself. ” I do not like to complain, I have expressed my sincere gratitude to the hospital for their care and my daughters have raised nearly £3000 for them and the Hospice of the Good Shepherd in memory of my husband and in order to help them both at a difficult time. ” I feel like a statistic, and this is not right. I am a person who also needs to survive”.
She said her situation would have far better if she had already got her pension as of right.
” I have supported BackTo60 for a long time and I feel it is disgusting that they changed the pension age without properly informing people. I have paid in since I was 15. We are entitled to that money and there should be full restitution.”
BackTo60 have just launched a £10,000 crowdfunder so they can keep the issue in the public eye right up until the judicial review appeal in July.
They intend to use the money for a film that will highlight how Covid-19 has made life worse for many 50s women already suffering in poverty and having difficulty making ends meet.
You can donate to the crowdfunderhere. It is something that needs exposing.
One of the most disturbing things coming back to the UK after nearly three months is how the country is now gripped in an inevitable lock down without any sign of an exit – as this nasty virus – Covid-19 – takes a grip on the nation.
For women and men in their 60s the situation is particularly dire. They should be protected but are not. Instead they have the problems of either being pushed out of work and put at the mercy of the hopeless and half finished Universal Credit system or the government’s long delayed payments for the self employed for any money.
They know they are a high risk group recognised by the World Health Organisation ( WHO) but they are caught between surviving on savings or going out to work – including for the NHS and in care homes – knowing they stand a greater chance of getting the virus. The two scenarios I illustrated in my article for Byline Times.
But probably the most pleasing thing that happened while I was away was the decision of the Court of Appeal to grant an appeal from the two 50swomen on behalf of BackTo60 on all grounds after the disappointing judicial review decision. which rejected their case.
The women I know have a long wait until July for the hearing but if they hadn’t taken this step they would be nowhere under this present Tory government.
The applicants at the time would not have known how damaging the coronavirus would be but fortunately they got their right to appeal before the courts closed down to hear most new cases. The latest situation at the Court of Appeal can be seen in their latest briefing( April 17).
The fact that BackTo60 has got an appeal on all grounds is significant given the judicial review rejected their case on all grounds and the judge who decided this also wanted to stop an appeal.
Lawyers for the claimants were confident that they could win permission to appeal – and they were right.
At the time detractors – many of whom should have known better – were making wild claims about the crowd funding appeal – which was set at a specific figure on the advice of the lawyers- and trying to stir up animosity against BackTo60. They did not succeed and the result is the issue remains very much alive.
The other key result is that for the government the issue will have to be faced again – ministers have not succeeded in squashing the campaign in the courts. The government knows it will have to argue its case again and 3.8 million women will have a voice at the Royal Courts of Justice to say why they were mistreated and swindled out of their pensions.
I have given a radio interview which is also on BackTo60 and you can listen to it at the top of this blog.
This is just a note to my readers that after an absence of nearly three months I am now back in rather a different England that I left in January.
I have been extremely lucky as the trip I took with my disabled wife sailing round the whole of South America was about the safest place to be at the time – as the ship kept ahead of the spread of COFID 19 until the every end.
Then a very wise captain decided not admit any new passengers or crew when we docked at Fort Lauderdale and only allow passengers to disembark – not even go ashore and return – protecting the ship from the virus.
We then sailed straight for Southampton and were able to dock without facing the terrible fate some cruise liners had to endure where passengers had caught the disease. Cunard deserve a lot of praise for this. I will put up a blog with lots of pictures of what we saw in South America at a later date – as an antidote to today’s gloomy situation.
But now having had to painfully adapt to the new situation and look after and protect my wife from this invisible scourge I am back to investigating from home again.
I have a lot to catch up. I am planning fresh articles on developments on the BackTo60 campaign and the continuing plight of #50sWomen now hit by the fall out from the coronavirus. While I was away their victory at the Court of Appeal to challenge the findings of the judicial review on all grounds was an amazing achievement.
I am also back working for Byline Times which is doing a series of investigations in to the NHS and the coronavirus and I will keep an eye out for any other issues in Whitehall that are being buried by the current crisis.
I also have a number of more long term and complicated investigations – nearly all raised by people who contacted me directly and are taking many months to sort out. You will know who you are but I ask you for some patience as it will take time to get round to them.
In the meantime it will soon be back to business as usual.