Background: Older women in Coventry, as in the rest of the country, are poorer than men. Many poorer women over retirement age are already struggling to manage, as the costs of food and fuel rise above inflation. Many women in their 50s and 60s already face having to work for longer because of inadequate pensions. There are particular concerns about those women who combine poorly paid work with caring responsibilities.
Cuts and changes: There are a wide range of changes to benefits and pensions that will affect older women, depending on what group they fall into:
Women in their fifties and early sixties: Some of these women will be affected by cuts and changes to working age benefits including disability benefits, housing benefit, council tax credit and the introduction of universal credit. Women working in the
public sector will be affected by changes to public sector pension contributions and an
increase in the retirement age.
• Older women pensioners: Pensioners have been protected against many
of the changes to housing and other benefits. Some benefits for pensioners such as free bus passes and winter fuel allowance have been preserved. However, pensions and benefits are being linked to the Consumer Price Index rather than the Retail Price Index. The CPI as a measure of inflation is between 1 and 2% lower than the RPI. Some pensioners will also be impacted by changes to housing benefit.
• Mixed age couples: In addition to the cuts and changes faced by older women set out above, women in couples where one partner is over pension age and the other is of working age may lose significantly under proposals for the universal credit and changes to council tax benefit. They may also lose out as a result of restrictions on housing benefit for social housing.
The impact: These cuts and changes will increase existing inequalities between older women and older men. There are also concerns from a human rights perspective about how these cuts and changes will affect the poorest pensioners and women in their fifties and sixties. For some women, the combined impact of changes and cuts to benefits and services, particularly in the context of rising fuel and food prices, could lead to significant hardship and suffering, and increased levels of poverty.