Since 1940 the state pension age for women has been 60. From 6 April 2010 the state pension age for women will gradually rise to 65 so it will match the state pension age for men by 2020.
This means that a woman born on or after 6 April 1950 but before 6 April 1955 will have a higher state pension age than 60 depending on when she was born. From 2024 to 2046 the state pension age for both men and women will gradually rise from 65 to 68. A man or woman born on or after 6 April 1959 but before 6 April 1978 will have a higher state pension age than 65 depending on when they were born.
The amount of basic state pension a person will receive when they reach state pension age will depend on their National Insurance Contribution record over their working life. When a person works they pay National Insurance Contributions from their wages which go towards their state pension. A person can also be credited with contributions if they have been caring for someone or claiming certain benefits or if they have paid voluntary contributions.
In order to qualify for the full basic state pension it is necessary to build up a certain number of years of contributions called ‘qualifying years’. This is currently 39 years for women and 44 years for men. For men and women reaching state pension age on or after 6 April 2010 this is reducing to 30 years. A person with less than 30 qualifying years will be entitled to 1/30th of the full pension for each qualifying year. A person who has taken time out of the workplace, for example, for a career break, to raise children or to care for someone, may not have built up enough qualifying years to get the full basic state pension. A person who has a shortfall may be able to boost their basic state pension entitlement. They may be able to buy voluntary National Insurance Contributions to fill any gaps in their record. If they have a husband, wife or civil partner with a good National Insurance record they may also qualify for some state pension through them. This could give a total basic state pension of up to 60% of the full rate.
Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP) was introduced in 1978 to help people with caring responsibilities who are not in paid employment or have low earnings. It works by reducing the number of qualifying years a person needs to build up a basic state pension. From 6th April 2010 HRP will be replaced with a weekly credit that will be available to people getting Child Benefit for a child or children aged under 12, registered foster carers and people spending 20 hours a week or more caring for someone who is disabled. Those who provide care for someone for 20 hours a week or more and the person they are caring for is getting a benefit such as Attendance Allowance or is certified as needing care may be able to apply for the new Carer’s Credit which helps carers build up contributions to the basic state pension.
From 6th April 2010 it is no longer possible to claim an increase of state retirement pension for an adult dependent (a spouse or other person looking after the claimant’s child). A person who is eligible for an ADI will need to claim it before 6 April 2010. Anyone who is already receiving an ADI will be able to keep getting it for as long as they satisfy the qualifying conditions. ADIs will be entirely abolished by April 2020.
The increase in the state pension age will have implications for the qualifying ages for entitlement to various social security benefits which will change in line with the increases. There will be an increase in the maximum age of entitlement for working age benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance. There will also be an increase in the qualifying age of entitlement for pensioner benefits such as Pension Credit and the Winter Fuel Payment.
Further information on the changes to state pension age and its implications are available from your local CAB or by visiting www.nidirect.gov.uk which has a state pension age calculator and state pension profiler tool. Information is also available by calling 0800 678 1132.
Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice