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Women challenging state pension age rise defeated in Court of Appeal

Judges rule in favour of government in women’s fight for a fair state pension

Women challenging state pension age rise defeated in Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal has rejected a case by women claiming they faced discrimination when their state pension age was increased. 

Campaigners had been appealing against a ruling by High Court judges in October 2019, which rejected claims of discrimination.

Many women born in the 1950s believe they were robbed of their state pension when the government introduced the changes to the state pension age (SPA) from 60 to 65, and then 66 in line with men, noting that it was ‘unlawful’ and ‘unfair’.

Find out how the court case played out and when you can claim your state pension.


Judges unanimously back government

A sea of women had hoped they would see repayments on state pension payments they believe they’re entitled to.

They’ve been represented by two women in their 60s, Julie Delve and Karen Glynn who mounted the challenge to the Court of Appeal, with support from the BackTo60 campaign group. Around 3.8 million women born in the 1950s have been impacted.

BackTo60 has maintained that the women were not given enough notice to prepare for up to six years without their state pension.

However, judges unanimously decided the two women did not face discrimination on the grounds of sex and age when the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) raised the SPA.

The senior justices said: ‘Despite the sympathy that we, like the members of the Divisional Court [High Court], feel for the appellants and other women in their position, we are satisfied that this is not a case where the court can interfere with the decisions taken through the parliamentary process.’

They said that ‘in the light of the extensive evidence’ put forward by the government, ‘it is impossible to say that the government’s decision to strike the balance where it did – between the need to put state pension provision on a sustainable footing and the recognition of the hardship that could result for those affected by the changes – was manifestly without reasonable foundation’.

Joanne Welch, founder and director of BackTo60 told the BBC yesterday (16 September) that she would now consider taking the case to the Supreme Court and would also draft legislation to bring a women’s Bill of Rights.

A ‘bitter pill’ for campaigners

Moira O’Neill, Interactive Investor head of personal finance, says: ‘The loss will be a bitter (if not necessarily unexpected) pill for campaigners to swallow and is a timely reminder that savers can’t rely on future governments to keep promises regarding the state pension.

‘Improvements to life expectancy is already pushing state pension ages up (and private pensions) – and pressure to ease the financial pressure of the state pension on the government’s books may mean that our reliance on the state pension may need to alter too.

‘The onus is increasingly falling on the shoulders of individuals to secure their financial future – and to plan well ahead.

‘The absence of clear communication of the change was painfully obvious, and we have had devastating anecdotes from countless women (and their partners) affected by the rise in the retirement age for women have suffered financial hardship as a result. Governments need to do better.’

BackTo60 and Waspi: the long fight for equality

The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the SPA for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020.

The aftermath of this government decision led to the formation of two groups: Waspi – Women Against State Pension Age Inequality –  who came together in 2015 and BackTo60, which has long been campaigning on the premise that pay for women was often lower than that for men, and many women took breaks from work to bring up children.

This means that not receiving their pension at 60 has had a disproportionately harsh effect, BackTo60 argues.

What was the government’s argument?

The DWP had strongly opposed the original case. Governments have long argued that the age rise was justified on the grounds of intergenerational fairness, and addresses inequalities between men and women’s state pension ages.

A DWP spokesperson told us at the time of the original verdict: ‘The government decided more than 20 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality and this has been clearly communicated.

‘People are living longer, so we need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a state pension so it’s sustainable now and for future generations.’

What is my state pension age?

The age you’ll start to receive the state pension will depend on when you were born.

You can use our state pension age calculator to work out when you’re likely to qualify.

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