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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) landed another punch on 1950s women last week with the announcement of changes to Pension Credit rules.

These are the women waiting up to an extra 6 years for their State Pension – at a potential loss of tens of thousands of pounds – and whose pension rights are being championed by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign.

Having already suffered a hammer blow to their retirement plans – with little or no time to make alternative financial and work arrangements – the DWP’s latest announcement of changes to Pension Credit rules means another hit for some of the poorest in the community.

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Currently, if one partner in a low-income couple is of State Pension Age (SPA), they can claim Pension Credit. However, with effect from 15th May, both partners will have to be of SPA to qualify. This equates to a loss of up to £7,000 a year for some couples. That said, couples who already claim Pension Credit will be able to continue to do so, unless their circumstances change.

This new requirement is said to punish people for being in mixed-age relationships, pushing them onto a much lower benefit, Universal Credit, which was never intended for those of pensionable age.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Director, points out that Pension Credit “is the single most important poverty alleviation mechanism for older people that we have in this country”. She warns that pensioner poverty is likely to increase as a result. And she makes special mention of WASPI women:

“… it is also worth considering that many who will be caught by the policy change are likely to be women born in the 1950s – precisely the group who have been impacted by other government decisions to raise the state pension age – the ‘WASPI generation’. Anyone hit by this ‘double whammy’ will be entitled to feel especially aggrieved”.

Shelagh Simmons, Solent WASPI’s Coordinator, has said:

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“The state pension age increases were allegedly to remove the anomaly of women retiring earlier than men. The Pension Credit change is allegedly to remove the anomaly of someone below SPA receiving an inappropriate benefit.

“If only the Government had paid such attention to the other lifetime anomalies WASPI women have faced – for example, unequal pay and pension opportunities – before inflicting further financial damage on us, we might have believed it was all in the interests of equality. But it seems a perceived anomaly is only to be corrected if it saves money.

“Trapped in the twilight zone between 60 (the age we expected to get our state pensions) and 66/67, and often unable to work or claim any form of support, some of us are told by the DWP that our husbands will have to “keep” us.

“For single women, of course, there is no such option. And women in same-sex relationships have been doubly impacted. The truth is that all women born in the 1950s have been shabbily treated because of our date of birth. Where is the equality, and dignity, in that?”

The DWP quaintly called this latest assault on 1950s women and their families a ‘Pensions Update’, but Solent WASPI believes it is another smash and grab raid on those already hit by the injustice of SPA increases appallingly communicated and poorly implemented.

The Work and Pensions Committee has written to the Government amid concerns about the impact of the Pension Credit changes. Age UK has urged the Government to withdraw them, and Solent WASPI strongly urges them to do so too.

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