I’m really proud to be able to reaffirm my support for the fantastic Women Against State Pension Inequality #WASPI campaign, by signing the #WASPIpledge.
Changes introduced by legislation in 1995, and then accelerated in 2011, mean that millions of women born after 6th April 1950 – who had previously expected to retire at age 60 – will not be entitled to receive their State Pension until between the ages of 63 and 66.
Some women have been affected by both changes, seeing their State Pension age increased twice – and I’ve lost count of the number of women from across Newcastle North who’ve told me that they received little, or even no, notification of either increase from the Government. Around 4,000 women in Newcastle North alone are directly affected by the 2011 legislation.
This has left huge numbers of women in real financial difficulty – many of whom who took early retirement (often due to ill health or because of increased caring responsibilities), in anticipation of reaching State Pension age at 60, and have now been left without any income – in some cases until the age of 66. And I know from the conversations I’ve had with countless local women that many have worked – and paid National Insurance contributions – since they were 15, and now feel totally let down by a system they thought would be there to support them as they reached the end of their working life.
That’s why I’ve worked closely with local WASPI campaigners over a number of years to fight this injustice – and have tirelessly lobbied the Government to think again, and to introduce transitional arrangements for those affected. Labour has also committed to supporting this group of women, with some more details about this available here:
As I said during one of the many times I have raised this issue in Parliament: ‘I agree that it is right to equalise the State Pension age for women and men, but I thoroughly object to the Government’s implication that the women, and indeed men, who are campaigning on this issue are standing in the way of progress, or acting as a barrier to the achievement of gender equality and fairness. That is deeply insulting, patronising and wrong…
‘…The crux of the matter is that these pension changes have not been properly communicated to those affected, and women born in the 1950s have been disproportionately hit because their pension age has been increased not once but twice, with very little time for them to do anything about it. That relatively small group of women is being asked to bear the cost of making our pension system fair, sustainable and affordable for everyone else. That is patently unfair and blatantly discriminatory. Women across the country have been left in real fear, simply because they did not have the foresight to be born a few years – in some cases, a few months – earlier.
‘How dare the Government lecture those women about the importance of gender equality? They have worked hard, done the right thing and paid into the system. They have faced discrimination, unfairness and inequality throughout their working and often their family lives. They thought they had entered into a pensions contract with the Government, only to discover as they neared retirement that the Government were not going to keep their side of the bargain. That is the very definition of unfairness, and the notion that inequality can be fought by imposing more of it is absurd.’
To date, Theresa May continues to ignore this issue in the hope it will disappear – but she is very sadly mistaken if she thinks the WASPI women are going to give up or go away. They are not going anywhere – and neither will I.