A snowman on duty outside Penarth Town Council last night – where members of the State Pension campaign WASPI enlisted the support of councillors
It’s being claimed that up to 3,000 women in Penarth – all born in the 1950s – are now having to wait years longer than they originally expected to before beginning to receive their state pensions
The claim is being made by the campaigning organisation “WASPI” – [Women Against State Pension Inequality.] which last night lobbied Penarth Town Council in its drive to enlist the support of local councils across the country.
The bone of contention is the way in which the UK Government implemented a 1995 decision to increase the qualifying state pension age for women (which was then 60) to make it the same as that of men (then 65).
The WASPI campaigners say they are “non-political” and actually “agree with equalisation” [i.e. that the pension age should be the same for both sexes] – but say the changes affecting some women were implemented in an “unfair way” which – they claim – gave women born in the 1950s “little or no personal notice” of the impending changes and “no time” to make alternative retirement plans.
They now want :-
- a “non-means tested bridging pension” for all women born in the 1950s who are affected by changes to the State Pension Laws and, on top of that…
- “compensation for losses” which they claim have been incurred by women who have already reached their state pension age.
(Left to right) Kay Clarke, Celia Jones and Jocelyn Morgan – the three-woman delegation from WASPI with what they called “suffragette banners” – who last night successfully persuaded Penarth Town councillors to support them
Penarth Town Council’s policy committee last night listened to a presentation by a delegation of 3 representatives of WASPI . Councillors heard that some women had been – or could be – affected “more than once” by successive upward adjustments in the retirement age. [An All-party Commons Committee agreed the strategy of bringing the qualifying age of State Pension for women in line with men – and subsequently agreed successive increases in the unified pension age for both men and women. The “State Pension Age” – the qualifying age at which a State Pension can commence being paid – is to be further increased in the future, and will be raised to 68 between 2044 and 2046].
Attending Penarth Town Council last night were Celia Jones, the co-founder of the Wales and West WASPI group, Jocelyn Morgan the co-ordinator for Bridgend and the Valleys and Kay Clarke the co-ordinator for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Ms Clarke said WASPI, [Women Against State Pension Inequality] had been started up by “5 ordinary women”. She said hundreds of thousands of women – including 138,000 in Wales alone – were suffering financial hardship with not enough time to re-plan for their retirement. Women – she said – were telling WASPI that they “could not believe that their retirement age had been increased by 4, 5 or 6 years – and they did not even know about it “. Finding work was impossible and many had to fall back on zero-hours contracts.
She claimed WASPI research had found that recommendations from the Turner Commission and from Saga give those affected a longer period of notice (15 years and 10 years respectively) had been “ignored” . Many women reported receiving little or no notice at all.
Divorced or single women often had no other source of income, she said and women had lost their independence – relying on husbands and partners to support them. Women who had planned for their retirement were having to live on dwindling limited savings until they reached their new state pension age – when that pension would be all they had left.
Cllr Yvonne Murphy (Labour St Augustines) produced packet of paper handkerchiefs at an emotional moment in the presentation
There was an emotional moment when Ms Clarke noted that neither her mother, her maternal grandmother, nor her great-grandmother had been “fortunate enough to reach the age of 60 resulting in contributions made by them ….” Ms Clarke might have gone on to say no pension had ever been paid to them – but the memories evoked by the message were so strong she had to pause.
A welcome packet of paper handkerchiefs was offered to Ms Clarke by Cllr Yvonne Murphy (Labour St Augustines) and the another member of the group took over the presentation.
In its way, however, the moment was a heart-felt salute to the many thousands of women of previous generations who worked hard, raised families, died early and never claimed a penny from the state.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)
At the end of the presentation Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) asked whether the original legislation increasing the State Pension Age had included a requirement for communication with affected pensioners. If that was the case, he asked, had any kind of judicial review had been considered?
The group said WASPI had been told by the Department of Work and Pensions that the onus was on individual pensioners to ask when their pension was due. However a London law firm was now advising WASPI to embark on a four-stage process to refer individual claims to the Ombudsman. Individual complaints would need to pass three initial hurdles and then be signed by the complainants’ MP and forwarded to the Ombudsman. He would examine whether there had been “maladministration”.
The Penarth Town Council policy committee decided to place a motion supporting WASPI on the agenda for the next full council meeting.