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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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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