This week the State Pension age rose to 66 and under the current rules, even those with long National Insurance records, poor health and no prospect of employment cannot access it before that age.
Baroness Altmann said that while healthy life expectancy varies by nearly 20 years in the UK, the State Pension makes no allowance for such differentials, leaving the most disadvantaged members of society losing out.
As many disadvantaged groups - for whom hard manual working lives have taken a toll on their health - rely on State Pensions, Baroness Altmann said the rising State Pension age is increasingly disadvantaging those in poor health, especially women.
Baroness Altmann also said that as the Coronavirus pandemic has worsened the employment prospects and health of many over-60s, now it the time for the Government to act.
She said: “The pandemic has seen many over-60s lose their jobs, damaged their health or forced them into caring for loved ones and they are unlikely to be able to work again. Those without a private pension – especially women – need to take their pension early. But even those with very long National Insurance records (far longer than the 35 years needed for a full State Pension) or who have seriously shortened life expectancy, cannot receive a penny of State Pension until age 66 now.
“Allowing early access, even at a reduced rate, could offer a lifeline to those who want to benefit from their many years of NI contributions, rather than the unrealistic reliance on out-of-work benefits.”
She called on the Government to recognise that, “this is an issue of social justice.” She said: “As the impact of the pandemic on the labour market grows and the nation’s health deteriorates, ensuring the system works more fairly for the least advantaged is worth consideration.
“There has long been a strong case for considering a more flexible age range for starting State Pension payments and the pandemic has made this case even stronger. It could help many women and many who are seriously ill or need to care for loved ones and I do hope the Government will give this urgent consideration.”