WASPI women have been left ‘high and dry’ says David Linden
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Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) are a campaign group which fights on behalf of 1950s women who they feel were misinformed and mistreated by the increase in state pension age to 66. A spokesperson from the group shared the concerns voiced by other campaign groups that working deep into one’s life can cause difficulties with regard to health issues.
WASPI campaign director Debbie de Spon, told Express.co.uk: “The WASPI Campaign recognises the difficulties of working in later life with the health issues experienced as we get older. WASPI women have been telling us for years that they are unable to continue working in certain occupations because of their health.
“Recent reports prove what we have known empirically to be the case. Many women in their late-50s/early-60s are no longer physically able to continue working, so end up in the gig economy on zero-hour contracts, seasonal work, fixed term work, and short-term contracts – all of these badly impacted on by COVID-19.
“WASPI asked that all workers participate in a ‘working life MOT’ process to lengthen their healthy working life, and to prepare them adequately for any career changes necessitated by not being able to continue in the same occupation into their late-60s.
“It appears that the Government decided to raise the state pension age for women before putting in place any initiatives that would support a longer working life such as the midlife MOT which is available now. Alongside maladministering communication about the changes there was no support for women facing such a devastating change to their planned retirement.
“The suggestion of an early retirement ‘option’ hasn’t ever been made by the Government, and the Court determined that receiving the state pension earlier would be unlawful.
“The WASPI Campaign doesn’t support the reduced pension for life option because it means that women who are already hit by maladministration by the DWP regarding the lack of notice we received, (found by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman), have to further pay for the cost of administering this ask because it’s ‘cost neutral’.
“It would have a negative impact on other benefits and means that those in severe hardship would be even worse off and it forces women into further pensioner poverty and for the remainder of their lives.”
There have been calls recently from campaigners for the state pension age to be reduced, rather than increased on the basis that many people have to stop work before they reach the current state pension age of 66, or die before being able to claim anything.
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Campaigners argue that making people work late into their lives is unfair on the sick, as well as those doing manual or stressful jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit older workers particularly hard, and as employers continue to prefer younger workers, many older people could struggle to find work. Almost three million people over the age of 50 are looking for work, with over half of them believing their age has affected their prospects of being hired.
A further 17 percent of people said poor health had impacted their ability to find work, while nearly one in 10 found this difficult due to having caring responsibilities, according to a report by Legal & General Retail Retirement and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
Among people who are over the age of 55 who retired early, nearly six in 10 had no choice but to do so, with a third only retiring early because of poor health or physical problems, according to research by Just Group. 17 percent of over-55s who retired early had lost their job, and eight percent were forced to retire due to having caring responsibilities.
On the other hand, only one in four retired early due to their pension and savings being sufficient to fund their retirement.
Backing the case for a lowering of the state pension age is the revealing of new figures which have shown that life expectancy is actually falling in the UK. Campaigners are calling for the pension age to be cut down to 63, or even 60.
However, the Government has resisted calls to lower retirement age, and will instead press on with plans to increase the threshold up to 67 from 2026, and then again to 68 down the line.
The reason for the regular increase in state pension age is to keep it in line with the growing life expectancy for UK citizens, but if life expectancy is indeed falling, not rising, this could cast doubt over the validity of state pension age increases.
Between 2018 and 2020, life expectancy fell by 7.8 weeks in England and 11 weeks in Scotland, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have played a part in reducing the average life expectancy of Britons, however, the rate at which life expectancy was growing had slowed down even before the health crisis began.
This issue has heightened the discussion around more flexibility with regard to the drawing of people’s state pension, with research from AJ Bell showing that more than one in three Britons aged between 50 and 66 would consider taking their state pension early, if the option was available to them.
This could be especially important for people who live in less affluent parts of the country who may therefore need more financial support. Indeed, research found life expectancy discrepancies of up to a decade between different areas of the UK.
A petition has been set up which is calling for state pension age to be cut to 63 to help people doing more physically taxing jobs, such as bricklayers and HGV drivers. It has secured 12,000 signatures so far, but it will need 100,000 signatures to make debating the issue in Parliament a requirement.
The state pension age is only reviewed once every six years, with the Government set to publish its next report in May 2023. A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
“Raising State Pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”
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