Disclosure undermines ministry claim of no link between poverty and bad health and loss of state pension
Days after the Court of Appeal rejected the judicial review brought by the BackTo60 campaigners the House of Commons library produced a set of previously undisclosed figures showing huge leaps in the numbers of 50sborn women claiming universal credit[UC] or Jobseekers allowance[JSA] and employment and support allowance [ESA].
Claims for UC and JSA – which of course were non existent when the pension age was 60 – have gone up by an average of 382 per cent between 2013 and 2019. The figures are still relatively low (from 7582 to 36,531) but the trend is overwhelmingly upwards. It also excludes those who are battling on or using up savings rather than claim.
Claims for ESA – a difficult benefit to claim unless you are hospitalised and involving a 25 page questionnaire and work capacity assessment – have soared by 185 percent – to reach 205,385 -over the same six year period.
The figures are bound to be a huge underestimate as they take no account of the rule change that allowed people to claim the benefits if they had to stay at home because of Covid 19 this year. But they do allow a direct comparison during the period when the only big material change for this group of women was the loss of their state pension.
The disclosure of these figures -obviously not available at the time of the hearing – does undermine the forceful case made by Sir James Eadie, QC, who represented the Department of Work and Pensions, that any poverty or ill health suffered by these women could not be linked to the rise in the pension age to 66.
They also back up the argument made by Mr Mansfield who is quoted in the judgement:
” It is not uncommon for women born in the 1950s to have contracted various ailments and health problems by the time they reach their early 60s, because of the environment they lived in during their early years. He said further that it is common for women in this age group to be living in straitened circumstances particularly if they are now single, with part time jobs at best and working for low pay.
” It is also very common for them to be caring for elderly and infirm parents. He argued that the lack of state pension means that they have to resort to makeshift measures to make ends meet, selling their houses, using up their savings and cutting back on any non-essential spending so that they are not in a position to enjoy their retirement years.”
But the judges concluded: ” there is no sufficient causal link here between the withdrawal of the state pension from women in the age group 60 to 65 and the disadvantage caused to that group.
” The fact that poorer people are likely to experience a more serious adverse effect from the withdrawal of the pension and that groups who have historically been the victims of discrimination in the workplace are more likely to be poor does not make it indirectly discriminatory to apply the same criterion for eligibility to everyone, if that criterion is not more difficult for the group with the protected characteristic to satisfy.”
The figures also provide a useful constituency by constituency breakdown – showing an unequal distribution of the misery caused by ill health and failure to get as job depending on where you live. The guide would provide a very useful campaigning tool if people wish to lobby their MP over the bad treatment of 50s born women over their loss of pensions – as they can quote the figures back at their MP.
These are some of the top increases and the names of the MPs who were elected at the last election.
Unemployment biggest percentage constituency rises
Knowsley 1388 pc rise from 8 to 119 George Howarth ( Lab)
Newcastle North 1347 pc rise from 6 to 88 Catherine McKinnell (Lab)
Morecombe and Lunesdale 1300 pc rise from 6 to 84 David Morris (Con)
Birmingham Yardley 1270 pc rise from 10 to 137 Jess Phillips (Lab)
Wells 1220 per cent rise from 5 to 66 James Heappey (Con)
Disabled and ESA biggest constituency percentage rises
Glasgow North East 315 pc rise from 214 to 889 Anne McLaughlin (SNP)
NE Hampshire 300 pc rise from 32 to 128 Ranil Jayawardena (Con)
Linlithgow and East Falkirk 292pc rise 149 to 584 Martyn Day (SNP)
Brecon and Radnorshire 292 pc rise from 77 to 302 Fay Jones (Con)
Leeds NE 291pc rise from 89 to348 Fabian Hamilton (Lab)
Glasgow SW 287pc rise from 205 to 794 Chris Stephens (SNP)
Interestingly Martyn Day is the one MP who challenged Boris Johnson about the court judgement at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
The full report is available here. You need to download the table on working age benefits 2020 to get all the info on the big increases in payments. There is also an up to date breakdown of the numbers of 50sborn women living in individual constituencies.
So again we yet have another disclosure backing up the case for the 50swomen to get their pensions.