Five questions answered on the TUC’s claims on pension changes

Will they make people worse off?

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) today released a report stating that government plans to scrap the second pension in 2016 will result in people being worse off. We answer five questions on the TUC report.

According to the TUC, how will people be worse off once the single tier pension comes into affect?

The report says that by scrapping the second pension and introducing a single tier pension anyone who has a long work history is likely to be worse off buy £2,000 a year.

For example, the report claims anyone on a median income of £26,000 a year, and who has a full employment record, will be worse off as soon as the new pension is introduced.

If they retired in 2030 they would receive £1,500 a year less than under the current system.

Someone retiring 10 years after that would be £2,000 a year worse off.

"Many low and middle-income private sector workers, particularly those several decades away from retirement, could be thousands of pounds a year worse off in retirement," said Frances O'Grady, the TUC general secretary.

The second state pension was introduced 10 years ago to help those on low income. Today around 20 million Britons are currently part of the scheme.

What do the government say?

The government say the changes will make people better off.

"The flat rate will provide a fair base, set above the basic level of means test, helping people to know how much they need to save for the kind of retirement they want," said a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told the BBC.

What has the Work and Pensions Committee said about the planned changes? 

In April this year they said they supported the idea of a single tier system.

"It will mean more state pension for many people, particularly low-earners, in the short to medium term,” the MPs said.

They did, however, conclude that the government needs to explain it better to the public.

What have other analysts said?

An Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report found that people born later than the mid-1980s would be worse off when the single-tier pension was introduced.

The report said low earners would be £1,000 a year poorer, while high earners would lose as much as £2,300 a year.

However, it concluded that on average, women would be about £270 a year better off and men would be £81 better off.

What are the details of the new state single tier pension?

It will be introduced in 2016 and paid at a flat rate worth £144 a week. A person will need 35 years of contributions.

What do the changes actually mean? Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

There's been a lot of discussion about narcissists this week. But what does the term actually mean?

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal. I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1 per cent of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits. First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices. In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder. There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause. Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood. Paradoxically for a condition that often manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem. This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth. It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness. They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake. 

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times