Recently in the press or the media you may have seen or heard about disadvantaged military widows.
At present there are two campaigns being taken forward about broadly similar issues, but which affect different groups of military widow/ers.The War Widows Association of Great Britain is campaigning on behalf of about 4000 disadvantaged War Widows who receive their pension from the War Pension Scheme – this is an entirely separate issue from the Forces Pension Society campaign.
The Government has acknowledged that War Widows deserve special recognition and compensation for the loss of their spouse – hence the payment of a war widows pension or an award under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme 2005. This group is tightly ring fenced with no read across to other sectors of the public sector – War Widows are by definition a unique category.
There is no danger of setting a precedent in legislation, as retrospective legislation was enacted for pension changes relating to in 2000. We are not asking for any retrospective payments, only that all those currently in receipt of a pension should keep that pension for life.
To allow all to keep their pensions for life is merely tidying up the existing anomalies and removing the discrimination that exists against the post 1973 War Widows.
This small ring fenced group of War Widows were awarded their War Widow/ers Pension after 31 March 1973 and before 6 April 2005. Under present legislation they lose their War Widows Pension if they remarry or enter a co-habiting relationship. If they were under the pre 1973 scheme or the post 2005 scheme they would retain their war widows pension.
The most recent ( March 2013) statistics for the numbers of post 1975 War Widows shows that there are c 4105 of which 2,695 ( 66%) are aged over 60 years old and 1530 are over 70 years old. One might assume that this age group is less likely to remarry than those aged under 60 years.
However the numbers remarrying are pitifully small. SPVA inform us that between April 1 2008 and 31st March 2013, only 20 widows lost their pension due to remarriage – that is an average of 4 a year at £7K each. This represents the only saving the Treasury would make as all the other pensions are being paid anyway.
With such small figures surrendering their pensions one might ask “why bother?”
The older ladies do not understand the concept and legal status of cohabitation and live in fear that any friendship they have with someone will be classed as cohabitation and they would jeopardise their War Widows pension.
Loneliness is a very big issue for elderly people and it is acknowledged that single older people keep better health if they have companionship and do not live alone. Many elderly war widows were widowed before they had children so lack family support in their old age - they are all alone and when ill may need the support of a live in friend.
Changes in legislation mean that even sharing a house with a same sex friend is open to misinterpretation of cohabitation.
The younger ladies - there are 110 War Widows in this category that are under 40 years old –deserve the right to rebuild a new family unit for them and their children while retaining their financial stability.
This stability was compensation for the ultimate sacrifice that their husband made and which is probably used to pay a mortgage etc.
Service life with its many and unpredictable moves, and dependence on wives for welfare on the bases, mean this generation of widows were unable to develop a career and so have no pension in their own right. They are dependent on their widows’ pensions.
Even the Government estimate (Hansard 21.01 2014) of £70,000 a year seems inflated and the sum is probably nearer £30,00 a year. By any standards this is a very small cost for a lot of good will.
We would really value support and do appreciate the constraints you might have. However we would be most grateful if you would do what you can to convince the MOD that his is something they can and should do, and if you could circulate this information as widely as possible. An Early Day Motion is being tabled in early June.
6 June 2014