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Proposing an Increase in the UK State Pension Age to 71 Would Bring ‘Misery’ to Millions

Credits: Pensions & Investments

Proposals to raise the state retirement age to 71 have been strongly criticized by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), the largest independent organization of older people in the UK, and former pensions minister Ros Altmann.

The NPC, representing over 1.15 million members, argues that such a move would lead to misery for millions of middle-aged individuals in their later years.

Jan Shortt, the general secretary of NPC, contends that this proposal does not reflect the challenging reality of aging in the UK and will particularly impact those in their early 50s and younger, exacerbating the existing problem of pensioner poverty.

UK State Pension (Credits: Pensions & Investments)

According to Shortt, the suggested changes primarily benefit higher-income groups. While life expectancy has been increasing, so has the number of people living with ill-health, making it difficult for them to work longer.

Delaying pension access for those dealing with health issues is likely to increase poverty and strain public services like healthcare and social care.

Ros Altmann echoes these concerns, describing the idea of raising the state pension age to 71 as unconscionable. She emphasizes that only the top 10% of the population stays healthy into their early 70s.

Altmann argues that relying on chronological age as the sole criterion for pension eligibility is inflexible, and the NHS and the labor market are ill-prepared for such a policy, facing challenges related to health disparities across the country and pervasive ageism.

Recent reports highlight the inadequacy of the current state pension in covering basic needs. Despite a proposed 8.5% increase in the state pension to just over £11,500 a year, rising costs of living, including food and energy, leave a single person needing £31,300 annually for a moderate retirement income.

A separate report indicates that women typically need to work an extra 19 years to retire with the same pension savings as men. Jan Shortt argues that the government should dismiss proposals to raise the retirement age to 71 and calls for a reevaluation of the next scheduled retirement age increases.

The NPC, in collaboration with Unite and the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum, advocates for a “68 is too late” campaign and urges policymakers to develop a new plan involving public, private, and third-sector groups to prevent elder poverty.

The demographic landscape is shifting, with nearly 11 million people aged 65 and over, constituting almost one-fifth of the population. In the next decade, this figure is expected to rise to almost 13 million, representing 22% of the population. However, underlying problems related to the NHS and social care funding persist.

While state pensions and benefits are estimated to increase by £45 billion by 2050, the pressure on public finances from health and social care is projected to rise by £105 billion over the same period.

Shortt emphasizes that dismissing the pension bill for an aging population is not a sufficient response, as an epidemic of elder poverty and illness could become an unaffordable challenge for the nation in the next decade if neglected.

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