Older women should become apprentices, says new pensions minister

6 July 2017

The new pensions minister, Guy Opperman has outraged women that have been caught out by rapid increases to the state pension age by suggesting that they take up apprenticeships in old age.

Speaking at his first debate since becoming the new minister for pensions and financial inclusion, the MP for Hexham said that while he and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) might be able to help some of the most severely impacted individuals, it would not make any fundamental change of legislation to help the so-called ‘WASPI’ (Women against state pension increases) women.

He said: “If individual Members of Parliament have specific cases where they feel their individual constituents are affected by state pension age changes and find themselves in financial hardship, whether they are people who have to reduce their hours because of sickness, disability or caring responsibility, I and the London DWP team will look into those individual cases.”

“It is not the government’s position that we will make further concessions by the 1995 and 2011 acts [acts which legislated for an increase to the state pension age for women],” he added.

Instead, Mr Opperman focused on action the government has taken to help those in their pre-retirement years to find employment or re-train. This includes specialist Job Centre ‘champions’ to help older claimants find work and an extension to apprenticeship opportunities for older workers. He described apprenticeships as being “one of the best routes into skilled employment for people of all ages and gender” and said that in 2014/15, 12% of apprentices were aged over 45.

The suggestion was met with jeers from MPs. Waspi campaigners meanwhile took to Twitter to vent their anger and question the logic of offering training opportunities to people at the end of their working lives.

While i'm becoming a 63yr apprentice who's caring for 85yr+ parents?Do I take them with me?Thought elderly care was another 'issue'?

— HH (@rockinhelen) July 6, 2017

My employer wanted rid of my when I was 59. Now nearly 63. Who will give me an apprenticeship?

— Sandie Saunders (@Sandrann55) July 5, 2017

Labour MP, Grahame Morris, called on Mr Opperman to apply “the principles of natural justice” to women that have been affected by the change. He said:  “As a nation, we owe a debt of honour to the WASPI women, many of whom are now in ill health, who have paid their contributions and who are not looking for apprenticeships at age 64 but for some recognition of their contribution—sometimes over 44 or 45 years or more.”

‘The government needs to step up’

During the 90-minute debate, MPs from across the political spectrum talked about how women in their constituencies had been affected.

Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans said: “Not only do my constituents feel that they were not given adequate information about how to plan their future, but they feel cast on the heap, so to speak, now that they are having to look for jobs. Their experience in the jobcentre has been abysmal. People who have been in senior positions are being given advice on how to dress and present themselves at interview and update their CV… their chances of getting a job are pretty remote and they are finding it incredibly dispiriting to have to take part in that process.”

Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn spoke of specific individuals within his constituency. He said: “Jennifer Smith, aged 63, works as a nurse on night shifts and does not see why she should run around an extremely busy ward while her pension has been moved back. Kath Talbot, also in her 60s, has described the change as a six-year sentence and says it is heartbreaking to watch her plans go up in smoke because she has to use savings to get by. Elaine Walker, aged 62, has worked all her life, but is now disabled. On top of the changes to pensions, the Government has also cut her benefits. Joanie Fraser, aged 62, worries about an uncertain future for her and her friends, who simply cannot cope with further demoralisation after more than 45 years of hard work.

He added: “The government needs to step up now and implement clear transitional arrangements for the women that remedy the situation they face. Their financial situation is insecure and the Government need to recognise that.”



In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you for all of your interesting comments. We've published a selection of them on the Letters page of the August Moneywise magazine.

Best wishes,

Moneywise Helen

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I am 62 this month, have bought up 3 children and worked full time aiming for a state and private pension at 60, this changed to 62.5 years and then 66 just before my retirement. I was in my last employment for 22 years the company was taken over and like many others on an old contract were made to feel extremely uncomfortable until we left their employ. I have a small private pension which is no where near enough to live on, I was not entitled to job seekers allowance due to this and was treated abominably by the centre. I was dealt two blows pension wise, my private pension although final salary, on taking it it is final salary minus the national insurance threshold which I was not aware of, this apparently pays towards my state pension making my private pension nearly £6000 pounds light. I then asked for a forecast for my state pension and although I have 41 years of contributions I am not entitled to a full state pension. I am loosing thousands and struggling due to these changes which were bought about far to late for me to cater for during my retirement. The only work that seems to be available is usually zero hours contract on minimum wage, unlike the terms and conditions I had built up during my employment with my last employer until it's compulsory take over.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You are right - not only must Opperman resign from post, but we should devote time and effort to make sure this level of "Idiocracy" is kept away from 21 century politics. Why would the Conservative Party want to shot themselves in the foot again!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The WASPI women who are affected have had their pension age increase by 5/6 years, men of same age 1 year. That is not equality! And just for the record: these same women had no equality at work and no equal pay.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Started work in 1969 and have paid 48 years contributions. Obviously they want us women to die. I want my money i have paid in now.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Can anybody tell me why some of us now have to work for 50 years to get our state pension, much reduced from all the extra surps we paid inot, and other can retire after 35 years or none. Why can the government not make a sensible plan like for instance retire afte paying in for 40 years? Also why is this idiot alking about apprentices at 45 five? does he not know that someone bron the 50's will be at leat 59 this year and have been working since they were 15 or 16. Would he send his mother on an apprenticeship to work £3.50 hour and be talked down to by people a third of her age. Considering we pay the wages of these people they have no respect at all for working people.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Whilst I don't agree that retraining suits everyone, especially if they are holding down a role, looking after elderly parents and helping out with grandchildren, what is wrong with retraining and learning a new skill - most of us are capable and I've certainly learnt a lot from my re-training. I'm now much happier and more fulfilled and looking forward to continue working for longer than originally planned.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What planet is this unsocial,top school prat living on. Can somebody tell him that this is 21st century Britain now and that we are not living in the dark ages of yesterday.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Men usually have wives younger than themselves, so when women retire the husbands would be probably more infirm or dead, where as they more or less retire together.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Why do women think they are a special case, men allways had to wait until 65 to retire and they tend to do the harder heavier manual work, why do they go on about equality then moan when they get it, just want to cherry pick. Men normally paid in 5 years more contributions than women, not 40/45 years but 50 years. My dad was a stockman working 7 days a week really heavy work back in 50's, he just made it to 62 so no pension. In early 60's I started work on farm at 15 and was expected to carry 16 stone bags, women on farm never did the heavier work men did it for them. If you want equality in pay then lets have equality in work.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

JaneTrust a politician to do the right thing? They have no idea how the real world lives and beyond being elected have no interest in it. That is why they are politiicans - to avoid a real job!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Frankly by the time I reached my late fifties I was beginning to struggle with work. I was basically burnt out and becoming less and less responsive to new moves by my employer, most of which i found less than helpful. I learnt to dread the magic mantra of getting rid of red tape which always led to more! Part of my job involved dealing with forms. When i started it was a double sided sheet of foolscap, and it grew and grew. When i left the new version was four sides of A4 for basic information together with a second more specific form of varying length of six to ten pages. I never did work out what the advantage was and left before it was implemented. Just as well, I couldn't fill it in myself and had very serious doubts if anyone else would understand it!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yet another privately educated out of touch idiot who has somehow managed to be voted in by people who I'm sure trust him to do the right thing. If he was my MP he would be hearing my opinion on this very loud and clear. Women in their sixties applying for apprenticeships.......in what for goodness sake? He has not only made himself look stupid but has embarrassed the good people of Hexham, who I hope remember what this idiot has said when the next election is called.

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