Never mind WASPI, just look at Back to 60

The Back to 60 Campaign is attracting the attention of some high-profile people. Michael Mansfield QC has publicly endorsed it. And now the journalist David Hencke has written a blogpost about the campaign.

The sole source of Hencke's information about the campaign appears to be this video, in which a number of women complain about the effect that not receiving state pension at 60 has had on them and their families. As is all too often the case with 1950s women's pensions campaign material, the video is littered with gross factual errors, such as the talk of "earned dues" being wilfully withheld, and the notion that the government is in breach of contract. There are also some frankly ridiculous claims, such as Yvette Greenway's assertion that "millions of women....are basically left destitute, I mean literally destitute, and that's not an exaggeration". You're right, Yvette. It's not exaggeration, it is fiction.

Nonetheless, Hencke was convinced enough to put the video up on his website.

Quite why Hencke, who describes himself as an "award-winning journalist", so abandoned his journalistic principles that he made no attempt to check the women's claims -  or indeed any facts at all about the state pension age rises - is a mystery. I wouldn't want to insinuate anything, but in my experience, pulling the strings of anyone who seems to swallow the sob stories of 1950s women whole is often a 1950s woman. But I suppose Hencke could genuinely feel sorry for them. Or perhaps he is swayed by the presence of Michael Mansfield. If so, he really needs to remember what his job is. Journalists are there to speak truth to power, not to accept tamely what power tells them.

Here is Hencke's description of what the women are campaigning about:
They are angry at both the coalition and present Tory government decided to change the pension age without any notice so they can plan. 
No, just no. The Coalition and present Tory government did not raise women's state pension age from 60 without notice. Indeed the present Tory government has not changed the state pension age for 1950s women at all. The Coalition government did, but what the Back to 60 Campaign wants goes far beyond reversal of the Coalition government's legislation.

Here is a summary of the facts.
  • Legislation to raise the state pension age for women to 65 was announced in the November Budget of 1993 and passed by both Houses in 1995. It was reported on prime time TV and radio, and on the front pages of newspapers, in both years. You can find the announcement in the Budget speech here.

  • The legislation provided for a gradual rise of the state pension age to 65 over ten calendar years 2010-2020, and five birth years April 1950 to April 1955. You can find the original timetable here.

  • Both the Conservative Government in 1995, and the subsequent Labour government, produced copious leaflets and conducted public awareness campaigns. However, neither wrote to women individually. The WASPI campaign criticises the government for this and is encouraging women to pursue compensation claims for maladministration because they did not receive personal notification. However, the Government has no legal duty to inform personally and does not do so for other legislation. It has nonetheless admitted that communication of the change could have been better. You can download a comprehensive Commons briefing paper which covers this here.

  • In 2007, the Labour government enacted legislation to raise the state pension age for both men and women to 68 by 2046, with a long transition starting in 2024. The youngest women born in the 1950s would have been affected by this even without the subsequent acceleration by the Coalition government. This legislation also reduced the qualifying years for full state pension to 30 for both men and women, to take effect in 2010. Before that, the qualifying years for full SP were 39 for women and 44 for men. You can find the original version of the 2007 Pensions Act here.

  • In 2011, the Coalition government enacted legislation to accelerate both the equalisation of state pension ages and the start of the transition to higher pension ages. The equalisation of pension ages transition had already started, so the acceleration disproportionately affected women born in 1953-4, who had rises of up to 2 years in their state pension age at very short notice. Following a campaign by the Protest against the 2011 State Pension Age Increase group (which still exists, you can find their FB page here), the timetable for the acceleration was relaxed so that no woman had a rise of more than 18 months. However, many people - including me - still regard the extra rise and the short notice as unfair.

    You can find the timetable for the 2011 Act here. If you scroll down to the final page, you will see that state pension age rises for women born in the 1960s and 70s are now larger than for those born in the 1950s, because the 2011 and 2014 Acts have accelerated the whole 2007 Act, not just the women's state pension age increase.

  • The WASPI campaign deliberately conflated the 2011 acceleration with the 1995 state pension age rise in order to whip up demand for pensions at 60. When challenged about this, they changed the demand to "fair transitional arrangements", but subsequent communications have made it clear that they still really want pensions at 60. It is to their credit that the Back to 60 Campaign doesn't resort to such underhand tactics. However, their claim (repeated by Hencke) that the Coalition government ended the right of women born in the 1950s (after 5/4/50) to state pension on their 60th birthday is simply untrue. That right ended in 1995.

  • The 2014 Pensions Act further accelerated the 2007 Pensions Act timetable. However, this does not affect women born in the 1950s. The principal objection that 1950s women have to the 2014 Act appears to be the fact that if they were contracted-out of SERPS/S2P, they could get less than the new State Pension. This has nothing to do with the state pension age rises. Indeed, if women who were 60 before 6/4/16 had received SP at 60, they would now be receiving the old state pension not the new one. The 2014 Act also raised the qualifying years for full SP to 35 for both men and women, and introduced a lower qualifying limit of 10 years below which no SP would be payable at all. A small minority of older women will be affected by this. The 2014 Pensions Act can be found here.

  • The State Pension does not work like a funded pension scheme. It is legally a contributory benefit like JSA and ESA, and is paid from the same NI contributions - see section 20(i) here, Definition of Contributory Benefits. Parliament sets the eligibility of all these benefits, and is not obliged to give notice of changes. The claim in the video that these women have "earned dues" that the Government is wilfully withholding is simply wrong, I'm afraid. 

  • Realistically, no-one is going to restore the state pension to 60 for these women, not least because to do so would immediately attract legal challenges from men and younger women. These women have not been "discriminated against", as Michael Mansfield claims. If he had bothered to do some basic research as a lawyer, he would have discovered that a claim that raising the state pension age was sex discrimination was thrown out by the ECHR in 2012 .You can find the judgment here.

  • It would be far better to upgrade working-age benefits to make them more suitable for older people than to give 1950s women early pensions. Many of these women are far from poor - the 1950s cohort as a group is the richest in history
I have of course posted a summary of these facts on Hencke's blog.

It would be a gross misuse of public money to pay early state pensions to well-off ladies with large houses, defined-benefit pensions and second homes in Crete, while the poor, the sick, the disabled and low-income families are facing deep cuts to benefits.

What makes me particularly angry is that Hencke promotes this sob story by a few middle-class women at a time when kids are going to school hungry, primary schools are washing their uniforms because parents don't have the money for electricity, parents are passing out in school corridors because they have had nothing to eat, and doctors are seeing more and more cases of rickets and other disorders related to malnutrition.

This video by ITV's Daniel Hewitt is what Hencke should have on his website. I challenge him to put his considerable journalistic talents into raising awareness of the real poverty faced by a growing number of people in this country, the vast majority of whom are not 1950s women.

Correction: the statement in the first paragraph that Michael Mansfield is not representing the Back to 60 campaign has been removed. Nexus Chambers confirmed in a tweet on 13th November 2017 that he was representing them. 

Update: David Hencke has replied to my comment. I have responded in detail. You can find his comment and my response here.

Related reading:

Here I stand, I can do no other
The Fund that isn't a fund
State pensions: property right or benefit?
Pensions and stuff


  1. Your points as regards the facts of the matter are very well made. But, to me at least, somewhat deadened by the reference to "well-off ladies with large houses, defined-benefit pensions and second homes in Crete".

    I was always under the impression that you were a strong proponent of resisting those resorting to 'ad hominem' strategies in an attempt to advance their position, and I would strongly agree with that.

    I have zero stake in this whole WASPI argument, and I'm sure that I know effectively nothing about it when compared with you. But it seems difficult to advance a rational argument either way when the entire group in question are typecast in the way that they are in your 3rd-from-last paragraph. Those in question may all be well-off, on defined benefit schemes, and with second homes, and if they are then I bow to your superior knowledge of the facts and circumstances. But I somewhat doubt that.


    1. It's not an ad hominem. The 1950s cohort includes women who are by any standards very well off, and those women are very well represented in both the WASPI campaign and the Back to 60 campaign. The WASPI campaign directors all fit the description I gave. Both campaigns steadfastly resist any attempt to target help to those who are genuinely struggling. Frankly, I would have much more time for a campaign that aims to help those facing real hardship.

    2. Anonymous (2), I've deleted your comment as it is a duplicate of your comment further down the post. I've given a comprehensive response to that comment.

    3. That's fine, Frances-here is the part I didn't copy below as fitted with "reply" here: I agree with the first Anon post (I'm not the same person). Whether those who have taken on unpaid positions within any campaign are "well off" is irrelevant or all those involved, at any level, in Politics would be required to be poverty stricken in order to speak on behalf of others. If any women have Occupational Pensions, then any Transitional Pensions awarded would be taxed.

    4. What is relevant is that these well off women are campaigning for an outcome from which they would financially benefit.There is no altruism on display in Back to 60 or Waspi.Self interest is the guiding principle,in my opinion.

    5. I'm not sure why Back to 60 & Waspi are being lumped in together as they are both campaigning for different things. Waspi has clearly stated that they are not looking for the Pension age to go back to 60, albeit looking for compensation (a reduced Transitional Payment). I'm not 60 yet so I don't stand to gain any compensation, does that make me more altruistic? I don't like generalisations as women are all different- but many of the women I know, born in the 1950s, were conditioned to put the needs of others first-many were happy to do so (giving up jobs or working in P/T or low paid ones, without occupational pensions, to fit in with looking after children due to lack of childcare &/or to care for elderly relatives etc.). They have worked very hard, both paid and unpaid, throughout their lives & contributed to Taxes & the NI Fund. I don't know much about Back to 60 but I like the QC's style & greatly admire Ken Loach. They have greatly increased awareness of this issue. (Anon2)

  2. It's a sad but true fact that the government have steadfastly refused to revisit either the 1995 or the 2011 SPA rise timetables. The most unfair thing about it all is the way the 2011 accelerated SPA rise was worked out, in that some 1950s women just slightly younger than others have to wait years longer for their SP. Just one example, born 6/4/1953-5/5/1953 received their SP in July 2016! Born 6/4/1954-5/5/1954 have to wait until November 2019 for theirs. ONE year younger, 3 years 4 months longer to wait!!!! This is what we should be fighting, that badly worked out, unfair timetable, not a law passed in 1995. Not all 1950s women are well off. Many women with years to wait yet for their SP are either struggling to work with age related complaints, begging for benefits, or living on their dwindling savings rather than going through the humiliation and degradation of assessments and retraining and being forced to apply for jobs that don't exist anyway. Young people need what few jobs there are! Those women with years to wait yet need help NOW, not a pie in the sky hope of compensation in years to come. Surely those who have their SP by now should consider how their ask for compensation may be stopping the government from helping those who really need help.

    1. As you know, I do think the 2011 timetable is harsh and unfair. I do not see any reason to revisit the 1995 timetable though. My preference would be to offer targeted help to those struggling due to state pension age rises, and to upgrade the working-age benefits system generally so that it is more suitable for older people. For example, lifting the savings cap would make a big difference to a lot of women.

  3. Hey, Frances, seen the video of Michael Mansfield today talking about BackTo60 and helping to deliver our petition of 656,000 supporters to 10 Downing Street? If not, you should take a look....Hohoho, Franny, have a good Christmas....

  4. I seem to have added my comment to a reply (above)-couldn't see a Comment space, on my device, at the time posted-so here is part of it again to reiterate that I don't think the Government's intransigence is down to any Campaign group's "ask", as their recent responses have rejected all group's aims (unless I've missed something). What I said above is: there is a presumption that all 1950s women, involved in campaigning about State Pension, are not also challenging the Government on behalf of themselves/others who are struggling due to inadequate DHSS Benefits-including delays/Sanctions leading to Foodbanks & Stress. Many have worked (paid & unpaid) for organisations which support those affected-they are not mutually exclusive concerns. One of the difficulties for many 1950s women is that they are not entitled to Benefits, even if they have no personal income, for up to 6 years. This may be because they are married or have a small amount of (joint)savings set aside to subsidise state pension & pay for funeral costs etc. Contributory based JSA is only available for 6 months (£73 p.w. is not enough to live on) & ESA is designed to exclude many who are unfit to work (who were previously entitled to Incapacity Benefit). Those who do receive them live a precarious existence because they have to apply for unsuitable jobs or risk losing all-the ESA process is even more demoralising. Pension Credit is unlikely to help many couples (for above mentioned reasons) and may negatively impact on entitlement to additional Benefits for others. Early Reduced Pension was sold as “more realistic” as actuarially neutral (i.e. women affected would have paid the cost of administering this) but this would not have helped the most vulnerable as it would have left many women, in the longer term, living in Poverty. If the government wanted to offer this now (sadly, many women would take it up)-they could without getting any Campaign group’s approval so suggesting any Campaigns are stalling any proposals is divisive. Women campaigning for those who have up to c£50,000 less (up to 6 years) than women (who retired before them) have paid into the NI Fund to support these previous pensioners, who were not vilified as 'greedy’. There really is some sort of Doublethink going on that those who retired before were 'entitled' but that those who reached 60 after a random date are not. Many of the women I know still support their children/grandchildren &/or share their homes with adult children &/or have worked in the Community, supporting children, throughout their lives. Inferring any Pension groups/campaigners are in some way complicit in Child Poverty, by challenging the Government, is simply propaganda.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I really don't think you can assert that £73 pw is not enough to live on for 1950s women unless you also admit that it is not enough for anyone to live on. If the latter, then the correct course of action would be to campaign for increases in JSA and ESA, not demand early pensions for 1950s women while leaving everyone else to rot.

      The conditionality for benefits is the same for everyone. If someone has a partner who can support them, they are not eligible for non-contributory benefits. Again, I fail to see why this is so terrible for 1950s women, when it is apparently fine for everyone else. If you think that benefit claims should not take into account personal savings or a partner's income, then campaign for this change to be made to the benefits system. Calling for special payments for 1950s women does not fix the problem.

      I don't support ERP for exactly the reason that you give. People tend to underestimate how long they live, so the likelihood of ending up in poverty after taking ERP is really rather high. However, I disagree that the Government could offer this. The WASPI campaign specifically ruled it out, so offering it would not end the campaigning. Rather, it would encourage women to campaign for further concessions. The WASPI campaign's intransigence is inevitably met with Government intransigence. I wish people understood this.

      The date after which women no longer qualified for pension on their 60th birthday is not "random". It is the start of the tax year 15 years after the passing of the 1995 Pensions Act. That is a carefully chosen date designed to ensure that women within 15 years of retirement at the time the Act was passed would not be affected by it. Younger women, it was assumed, would have ample time to plan. As we know, many women didn't find out about the change and therefore didn't have time to plan, but the legislation itself did build in 15+ years to plan for the change. The question is therefore not whether the legislation itself gave inadequate notice - clearly it didn't - but whether the DWP's inadequate communication constituted maladministration. That is the avenue now being pursued by WASPI campaign on the advice of Bindmans.

      I have not in any way suggested that pension campaigners are complicit in child poverty. Please do not read into my post things that are not there.

    3. Here is what you said: “It would be a gross misuse of public money to pay early state pensions to well-off ladies ….while the poor, the sick, the disabled and low-income families are facing deep cuts to benefits.“ To me, that reads as if money paid to one group would be at the expense of the other group even though both groups clearly include those who could be categorised as: “poor, sick, disabled and low income”. You then say: “What makes me particularly angry is…. this sob story by a few middle-class women at a time when kids are going to school hungry, primary schools are washing their uniforms because parents don't have the money for electricity, parents are passing out in school corridors because they have had nothing to eat, and doctors are seeing more and more cases of rickets and other disorders related to malnutrition.” You use something emotive, everyone is appalled at; which you, I suspect, saw on TV/online recently. I had already witnessed this first-hand from supporting those on long term Benefits-things have got worse during the years women have not received their State Pensions from 60 so that the” public money” you refer to (savings George Osborne boasted about) has not relieved poverty. But, instead of aiming your anger at the Government, you blog & tweet to mock older women campaigning for some redress from a Fund they contributed to/are still contributing to for 44 or more years (yes, I’m aware that NI contributions paid for the previous generation’s Pensions). My statement was: “£73 p.w. is not enough to live on”-meaning not sufficient for anyone. I did not say only 1950s women but the fact is that many women are not even eligible for that (even if they have no independent income for 6 years). In your own words: “please do not read into my post things that are not there”.

    4. But you have read into my post things that are not there. I have never argued that women in poverty should not be helped. I object to women who are NOT poor receiving unconditional payments when families are sinking deeper into poverty.

      You say I "mock older women". I assure you I am not mocking. I am in deadly earnest. I totally oppose the claim of comfortably off women for state pensions to which they have not been entitled since 1995.

      I must now draw your attention to the comments policy of this blog, which you can find on the "About This Blog" page. I do not tolerate personal attacks on me or anyone else on this site. You have accused me of "mocking", which is a personal attack. This is your first warning. Any more comments containing personal attacks against me or others will be deleted. If you persistently post personal attacks, you will be banned from commenting.

    5. Of course the money to one group would be at the expense of another.The money saved by the increase in SPA for men and women does not exist,because it has not needed to be raised from taxation or,more specifically,NICs.If we are discussing spending several tens of billions from the public purse ( which is the aim of back to 60 and Waspi) ,then doling this money out to women who have no need of it is a very low priority indeed.There is a strong case for improving working age benefits for all ,including lifting the savings cap for those within a few years of retirement. You can look at the DWP tables and see there are tens of thousands of men and women in the cohort 60-64 who are claiming benefits, which gainsays your assertion such benefits are not available to women in that age group.

    6. Mark, I am talking about many women who do not show up on any statistics, who are now living on their partner's Pension or small salary/savings. There are many women who are neither 'retired' nor registered as"unemployed" (as would only receive NI contributions & already have in excess of what is required) so don't Sign on. Lifting the savings cap could help those who cannot bridge the (unplanned for many) gap of 6 years as many are having to pay full Council Tax, Dental bills etc. even though not in employment.

    7. Frances, my choice of word "random" has been reiterated by 2 Conservative MPs in today's debate (it's still going on) in the HOC, who chose the word "arbitrary":
      1.based on random choice....
      Anon (2)


    8. I watched the HOC debate. Many of the MPs in that debate exhibited a shocking level of ignorance, both of the way the NI/SP system works and of the law.

      However, it was clear that the Conservative MPs' description of the timetable as "arbitrary" applied to the effects of the 2011 Act, which created sudden large differences in state pension age between women close together in age. No-one suggested that the 1995 Act timetable was arbitrary.

      I really don't need a dictionary definition of the word "arbitrary", thank you. Do you patronise everyone like this?

      I must also object to your allegation in an earlier comment that I "happened to see" the report of malnutrition among children and seized on it opportunistically to support my argument against 1950s women's pensions in this piece. It is extremely rude of you to make such a baseless assertion. In fact since 2010 I have written extensively about the effects of austerity on vulnerable groups. Here are a couple of examples:
      and here

      My work is widely read, though not by you, it seems. I am a long-standing advocate for Universal Basic Income and have a busy speaking programme on that subject.

      I've also made it clear in previous pieces about women's state pensions that I think reforming the benefits system and reversing the cuts to ESA, JSA, housing benefit and Universal Credit should be a much higher priority than giving early pensions to 1950s women. My comments in this piece are thus consistent with everything I have said before.

  5. Lizzie, yes indeed I have seen it. Sadly his description of how the state pension works is factually wrong, and therefore his threat to start legal action if the government does not pay women's pensions from 60 is, I'm afraid, completely hollow. I would have expected a top QC to check that his facts were correct before making public threats of legal action against the government. This does not show him in a good light.

    Have a good Christmas, Lizzie.

  6. I'm a bit lost here sorry.

    You resist "personal attacks against me or others", and classify "mocking" as such. I could not agree more. Yet I look at the picture that you chose to use of Michael Mansfield, and the picture and description of the straw man in your blog entry about David Hencke, and I'm not sure how that all reconciles?

    By the way, I'm neither the other 'anonymous' nor, as I said before, do I have any stake in the whole WASPI thing.


    1. WHAT? You are criticising me for using a still image of Michael Mansfield taken directly from the video that I cite in the piece? What are you smoking?

      The image of the straw man was mocking, yes, but the mockery is of Hencke's argument, not the man himself. It is not a personal attack. Hencke demolished a straw man of his own making instead of answering my points. Straw-manning is a form of logical fallacy (see here: Mocking a fallacious argument is an entirely legitimate debating tactic, and I am sure you have seen it used many times.

      In contrast, I was accused of mocking 1950s women, not their argument. If I had done that, it would indeed have been a personal (ad hominem) attack. But I have never mocked 1950s women. I disagree with their claim, and I counter it with reasoned argument and evidence. That is not mocking them.

    2. I do not need to use Google or Wikipedia as my primary sources for research thank you very much.

      No of course you don't 'mock' others, you just ask me what I'm 'smoking', which under your subtle logic is, no doubt, a mockery of my argument, not me as an individual.

    3. You've just given a fine example of a straw man argument. I never said you should use Google or Wikipedia as your primary sources for research. You therefore attacked an argument I did not make. That is a "straw man".

      I don't "mock" others. I was frankly stunned by your ridiculous criticism of my choice of image. By what sort of warped logic is using a still image from the principal source video for my piece "mocking"?

      I'm not going to post any more comments from you. You are wasting my time and everyone else's.

  7. I respect your arguments and I understand them. Initially, after the 1995 changes, it was said that there would be transitional arrangements. That altered, as you rightly say, in 2011. For me, it's a double whammy of having NI contributions required for a full pension raised from 30 up to 35 years and having my pension age raised by just under six years. Had I been aware of the full impact, I would not have put extra money into my pension during my 50s. In addition to this, the age of my occupational pension was raised from 60 up to 65, without any warning at all. So, that's a triple whammy. If I had kept on to the money I put into pensions in my 50s, I would have been much better off now. But I am not badly off, compared to many others. It does appear very unjust that women who are just a few months older than I am have had to wait only two years while I have faced all the increases I mentioned at the same time. It is a very emotive issue. I believe we will achieve a great deal more by being respectful of each other and trying to learn more. On an emotional level, it feels like the government can find money for a deal with the DUP and endless NHS cases, but faces no backlash when it targets approximately 3 million older women. If I had received proper warning, I would have made very different choices, over the last 15 years.

  8. Why are these women not working?


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