State pension: Expert reveals options for WASPI women
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Kathleen, 65, was one of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who were forced to work up to six years longer before claiming their State Pension. She couldn’t go on as her health failed, but knows that other women suffered even greater hardship. “Too many women I know have died.”
Waspi stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice, a campaign group that is fighting to win compensation after the Government hiked women’s State Pension age from 60 to 65 in line with men, then increased it again to 66.
Kathleen is keen to highlight the financial and emotional struggles women and their loved ones have endured as a result.
She had all her retirement plans in place only to discover at the last minute that she would have to work on for six years longer than she had expected before claiming her State Pension.
The discovery came as a total shock. “I’d had no notice of the change, and thought at first that it couldn’t be true.”
Kathleen, from Kerry Village, Renfrewshire, was forced to cut her working days to just two a week, after being diagnosed with a hereditary degenerative disease.
This left her struggling to afford everyday essentials like food and heating but this summer her plight got even worse.
Urgent treatment for her condition was delayed by the Covid pandemic, and when she took time off sick because she was too ill to work, she was fired.
Kathleen applied for Employment Support Allowance in August only to suffer the biggest blow of all.
“I was given £26 to last me the whole month. I had no idea how I was supposed to survive on that.”
Kathleen so furious at her treatment, and the treatment of women in a similar position, that she joined the Waspi campaign.
She made fantastic new friends but this also brought heartbreak. “Some died whilst waiting for their State Pension to arrive. After years of struggling against the odds, they didn’t get a penny.”
Kathleen finally got her State Pension in September, but said it had been a long and difficult wait, and shouldn’t have happened.
Women are always at the sharp end of poverty, she said. “It’s been like this throughout history. Women are expected to do everything, and occasionally they throw us a few crumbs.”
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Waspi 2018 chair Hilary Simpson said the the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to give women sufficient warning of change.
In July, their campaign won the backing of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which said the DWP should have given more notice of moves to raise the State Pension age, accusing it of “maladministration”.
Campaigners are now pressing for compensation, and say it should reflect the financial and health struggles many women have faced.
Now Kathleen hopes the ombudsman will recommend realistic compensation for the lack of notice, but adds: “For some poor women and their families, it will come too late.”
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