There is an incredible 20-year difference in healthy life expectancy, which measures how long people can expect to live in good health. Forcing everybody to wait until 66 to claim their State Pension punishes the poorest and those who do manual jobs, who often have to stop working years before that for health reasons.
The State Pension age is rising and rising, and will climb to 67 from 2026 and then 68 from as early as 2037.
Politicians say this is vital to keep it affordable as life expectancy rises, yet latest Office for National Statistics figures show life expectancy is now FALLING.
Baroness Ros Altmann, the award-winning later life campaigner, is calling for the State Pension age to be made more flexible.
She said people in poor health or great financial need must be free to access the State Pension early, especially if they have built up decades of qualifying National Insurance contributions.
Delaying the State Pension age for older people in poor health, unable to work and with no private pension is “inequitable”, Altmann said. “Change must be urgently considered as we are not supporting the poorest fairly.”
She said a flexible band of pension ages allowing some early access would reflect differences in healthy expectancy.
Women in the poorest areas only have expected healthy life to age 51.4 and men to 52.3, while in the richest areas, men and women stay healthy into their early 70s.
“Forcing everyone to wait longer for their State Pension to start clearly has harsh impacts on the least well-off,” Altmann said.
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Workers need to have made 35 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions to get the full basic new state pension.
In practice, many make far more and still cannot claim, Altmann said. “Even if they have worked for 50 years or more, they cannot get State Pension early.”
Private pensions allow early access from age 55, but the State Pension system does not offer this flexibility. “Many of the poorest have no workplace or private pensions, especially women.”
Those who are healthy and wealthy enough can get more State Pension if they delay taking it, but there is no option to draw it early which is unfair.
“Allowing early access as well, even at a reduced rate, could offer a lifeline, rather than the unrealistic reliance on out-of-work benefits,” Altmann added.