No notice! No pension! No justice! Some will say we asked for equality and now we have it.
We say the government can’t pick and choose when we are afforded equality since historically women have never received equal treatment either in society or in the workplace.
Growing up in the 1950s was a far cry from life as we know it today. Girls had little opportunity to enter higher education and most commenced full time employment at age 15. Even when they married and had children, the man was viewed as the breadwinner and without childcare provision, women worked part-time to fit in with family commitments and contribute to the joint income. Many women were actively encouraged to “pay the small stamp” (pay less in National Insurance contributions) and were assured that their husband’s state pension would cover their later years.
While men enjoyed the benefits of higher wages and a company pension scheme, women were not permitted to join company pension schemes until 1976.
Even then, this wasn’t open to part-time workers. Their ability to join a company pension scheme didn’t come into effect until 1993.
Raising state pension age
Why has this come back to haunt us? In 1995 the government raised the State Pension Age for women to 65. However, by their own admission they failed to formally notify us for 14 years. A further State Pension Age increase in 2011 prompted the government to begin to notify women in 2012 and even then not everyone received this notification.
By 2012 many women affected were aged 58 and retirement plans were already in place. A lot of women had left the workplace to care for elderly relatives or look after grandchildren in the belief they could manage on their savings until they received their State Pension entitlement.
While WASPI do not disagree with equalisation of the State Pension Age, we do disagree with the lack of notification and the rate of acceleration.
Retirement plans have been shattered, savings have gone, ageism is still rife in the world of employment and added together, this situation has left 1950s-born women in dire straits.
Having used up savings and downsized or sold their houses, many women are reduced to relying on food banks and attending Job Centres seeking non-existent employment.
But it doesn’t stop there! Following legislation in 2016 and 2017, women are no longer entitled to claim their husband’s state pension should he die. Without full National Insurance contributions they will not obtain a full State Pension. The widow’s pension is now means tested and if a woman has a private pension or a proportion of her husband’s pension she will receive nothing. Even those who qualify will only receive the widow’s pension for 12 months. Divorce settlements have been calculated on the assumption that the women’s State Pension Age was 60. Bus passes and winter fuel allowances are also denied. The list goes on!
In 2015, five women met online and WASPI was born. Were we angry? That is the understatement of the year! Do we intend to make the government account for its actions? Yes we do and we won’t stop until justice is served.
We believe the Department of Work and Pensions are guilty of maladministration by failing to adequately inform women about changes to the State Pension Age.
It is reasonable to expect more than two years’ notice when there is an increase to your State Pension Age by a further six years. Indeed at the time, the government ignored the recommendations of pension experts who recommended that 10 years’ notice should be given for every one year increase to the State Pension Age.
This wouldn’t be tolerated if it was a private pension scheme and we see this total disrespect of hard-working women to be no different.
What is happening to address this?
3.8 million women are affected in the UK and we are a force to be reckoned with. To date, we have had 11 debates in parliament; gained the support of MPs from all parties who have formed the largest APPG in parliamentary history; we have raised £100,000 via Crowd Justice to engage the services of expert lawyers; issued formal complaints using the parliamentary complaints procedure, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman will begin the investigation in October 2018.
How can you help us to help you? Visit our website.
Join a local group which can be found in the Local Group Directory on our website.
Lobby your MP to gain support.
Join our campaign and help us to raise vital legal funds by joining our membership scheme.
Make your voice heard by completing your complaint against the DWP (details on our website). We are here with all the help and support you need.
Lastly recognise you have done nothing wrong! You worked, you saved, you paid into the system, you cared for children and elderly relatives; you have done everything this country has asked of you.
The government have let you down; don’t let yourself down by sitting back and accepting this badly executed change in parliamentary legislation.
We can and we will get our respect back. The ladies are not for turning!
Christine Smith is a member of the Newcastle Wear and Tees WASPI Group
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age.