Pensioner wins the argument but still loses out

DIANA YOUNG is the persistent type. She had to be to work her way through the maze of pensions benefits she reckoned she was entitled to receive and make the social security department pay up.

But just as she scented victory in her long, if polite, dispute she turned 60 and found herself the victim of another trap which discriminated against her on the grounds of her sex. The Government cut Miss Young's invalidity benefits by nearly 25 per cent, a drop of almost pounds 20 a week. Previously she received pounds 79.06, made up of invalidity benefit and an additional component, which was cut to pounds 58.92, comprising the benefit plus an invalidity allowance. A man in a similar position would receive the higher amount.

Miss Young, from Camden, north London, retired through ill- health from her last job as a civil service clerk when she was 56 in 1987, though the trapped nerve in her back had forced her to take time off before she finally left.

She had worked full-time from the age of 18 in a number of jobs, and had never claimed unemployment benefit. Over the years she managed to save about pounds 12,000 and since her retirement she has received an occupational pension which amounts to about pounds 2,900 annually.

After her retirement she also received unemployment benefit for a year as she looked in vain for another job, and then sickness benefit for six months, finally receiving invalidity benefit in 1988. Eighteen months later - in April 1990 - the DSS conceded that she had been underpaid and sent her a cheque for pounds 1,285.50, the difference between the invalidity allowance she had been receiving and additional component she should have got.

However, on 6 June this year she turned 60 and was offered the choice of receiving an old age pension, which is taxable, and the invalidity benefits, which are not. She chose the latter, but soon discovered to her dismay that the amount was cut. 'This is affecting women all over the country,' she said. 'I'm now short pounds 20 a week, which is bad enough. But that's not really the point. If I were a man I'd still be getting it.'

(Photograph omitted)

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