State pension age rethink ‘not beyond realm of possibility’ as Budget announcement looms

Thérèse Coffey confirms they are 'not reviewing state pension age'

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Currently, the state pension is set to increase from 66 up to 67 before 2030, and again to 68 before 2050. However, some people have called for it to be reduced rather than increased due to a falling life expectancy in the UK.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak is preparing to announce his Autumn Budget on October 27, 2021, as people up and down the country anxiously wait to find out whether any changes will impact their finances.

One of the potential issues to be addressed is the increase in state pension age, which has been the topic of much debate recently. Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell provided his thoughts on the current plans to increase the state pension age and the likelihood of the Government changing course.

He said: “The current state pension age is 66, with plans to raise this to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2046 (although this could be brought forward to 2039).

“However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Conservative Party conference speech to highlight regional differences in life expectancy as a key area of inequality and target for his ‘levelling up’ agenda.”

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“Furthermore, we have recently seen a sharp drop in average life expectancy – although this may be a temporary blip as a result of the pandemic.

“Against this backdrop, it is not beyond the realms of possibility the Government will announce a review of planned state pension age increases, with a focus on inequalities and the potential long-term impact of Covid.

“Any move to push back state pension age increases – or cancel them altogether – would likely be popular, although the costs to the Exchequer would be eye-watering.”

Average life expectancy in England fell by 7.8 weeks between 2018 and 2020, and in Scotland it fell by 11 weeks, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

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Most regions of England saw their average life expectancy fall, but some areas were impacted more than others. Large drops in male life expectancy occurred in the North East (16.7 weeks) and Yorkshire and The Humber (8.8 weeks).

Females also experienced stark declines in life expectancy, as it fell in the West Midlands (9.9 weeks). However, some areas were not negatively affected, with life expectancy in the South West increasing by 17.7 weeks.

The gap is even more clear when comparing specific locations. For example, male life expectancy fell by 1.9 years in Hertsmere but went up by 2.1 years in Westminster. Elsewhere, female life expectancy dropped 1.1 years in Derby but rose 1.7 years in Kensington and Chelsea.

Figures from Statista between 2017 and 2019 further illustrate the stark difference in life expectancy when comparing different parts of the UK, with discrepancies of more than 10 years between the best and worst areas.

The life expectancy in Westminster was the best in the UK for both men and women, with men living to an average age of 84.88 and women living to 87.22 years old.

In contrast, inhabitants of Glasgow City have a life expectancy of just 73.6 for men and 78.5 for women on average, a difference of 11.28 and 8.72 years for men and women respectively.

These significant reductions and regional differences in life expectancy could put pressure on the Government to rethink the planned hike in the state pension age from 66 to 67.

One of the groups most impacted by changes to state pension age have been women, who saw their state pension age jump from 60 to 65, and later 66 as it increased at the same rate to men.

On the issues facing women with regard to state pension age, Mr Selby said: “Increases in the state pension age have been mired in controversy in recent years, particularly because of the impact on women born in the 1950s who argue they were not properly warned about the changes.”

Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is a group campaigning on behalf of 1950’s women who feel they were unfairly treated by the state pension age changes which were brought in with the 1995 State Pension Act.

They argue that due to issues with the way the changes were brought in, 3.8 million women born between 1950 and 1960 have been mistreated and were taken by surprise.

WASPI claims many women were not given fair notice of the changes, despite recommendations made which advised they should receive up to 15 years’ notice, and were not personally or appropriately notified when the changes were first brought in over 25 years ago.

Some women have been caught out by the changes, and some have been made to wait much longer for their pension than other women of a similar age, with a one-year age difference possibly meaning having to wait an extra three-years for their state pension. has contacted the DWP asking for comment.

A DWP spokesperson previously said: “We are fully committed to ensuring the historical errors that have been made by successive Governments are corrected, and as this report acknowledges, we’re dedicating significant resource to doing so. Anyone impacted will be contacted by us to ensure they receive all that they are owed.

“Since we became aware of this issue, we have introduced new quality control processes and improved training to help ensure this does not happen again.”

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