In the dim and distant past when I first left school and started earning my own living, I also started contributing to an insurance plan which promised me a wide range of benefits in return for a proportion of my salary. According to the rules then, once I had been in the plan for at least two years I would receive at least enough money to live on, for as long as I needed it, should I become unemployed or unable to work due to illness or disability and, once I had contributed for 20 years, I would receive a pension when I reached the age of 60.
I dutifully contributed to this plan for 24 years without making a single claim, but then a sequence of events left me permanently unfit for work and so I claimed. At first there was no problem - I was so clearly severely ill and disabled that there was no question of not paying the promised benefits until such time as I was entitled to be paid my pension instead. At some point during those 23 years the age at which I would be entitled to my pension had increased to 65, but that didn’t really matter as I still had my ill health benefits to rely on.
Unfortunately the company paying my benefits came under new management and decided to change the rules so that I now had to meet very stringent criteria to continue receiving any benefit, and unless I met the most stringent of these, I would only be paid for one year. Also, they increased the pension age by another 3 years, meaning that if I didn’t qualify for the ill health benefits, I would have no income for 17 years.
I am one of the lucky ones who did continue to receive benefits beyond that single year, but there’s no certainty in it because not only can this company apparently change the rules whenever they like, I have to rely on those rules being fairly applied not just once, but every time the whim takes them to reassess my claim, regardless of any and all medical evidence suggesting that not only will I not get better, but that my condition will only deteriorate.
I am now at the stage where I need more and more care, but we can’t afford for my husband to take early retirement to look after me as we can’t reliably predict if our income will permit it should the rules be changed again. Even if he doesn’t retire early, he’s in a profession in which he cannot continue beyond age 60 but his pension, from the same company, won’t be paid for 8 years after that despite him having already contributed for 42 years, making it even more vital that my ill health benefits continue to be paid.
Had we not contributed to this insurance plan, indeed had we not worked at all and relied on handouts, we’d be no worse off so a combined 66 years of contributions has earned us precisely nothing and there is unfortunately nothing we can do about it. The company is of course the government and so they can apparently do whatever they like, whenever they like. Can you imagine the furore if a private company had continually moved the goalposts like this?