‘Invisible, worthless, disempowered!’ WASPI women outline state pension age plight

State pension age previously stood at 60 for women in the UK but the Pensions Acts of 1995 and 2011, respectively, changed this. The state pension age for women increased to equalise with men at 65, but both have subsequently been uprated to 66, and further changes lie ahead. Some, however, have argued they were not given enough notice with regards to the changes, and thus have been adversely impacted as a result.

The alterations have affected approximately 3.8million women born in the 1950s.

One of the main organisations which has drawn attention to the issue is Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) – and their fight continues.

Earlier this year, it was found by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) that there was maladministration over the way the changes were communicated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Now, the campaign is awaiting a decision on whether the Ombudsman will recommend compensation is paid out to those affected.

This was an issued raised by Angela Madden, Chair and Finance Director of the WASPI Campaign in a seminar with the Pensions Management Institute this week.

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This fact was referenced by Ms Madden, and she added: “The DWP completely ignored the bad news and didn’t tell us about it. WASPI told all this and more to the DWP, who ignored us, and told us we were wrong.

“But we had that evidence that they got it wrong. They just weren’t interested. Can you imagine how that made us feel? Invisible, worthless, totally disempowered.

“We made life-changing decisions based on the wrong information.”

The Ombudsman added women affected should have been informed at least 28 months earlier than they were with regards to the changes.

As a result, WASPI has stressed the impact of the failings on women’s lives.

Ms Madden was also quick to highlight the stark and historic differences which impacted women in the past and continue to rear their head today.

She continued: “Things were different in the 1970s. The Equal Pay Act was in its infancy, there was no subsidised childcare, no paternity pay. Women were expected to give up work and care for children – you had to give up your job as it wasn’t held open for you to come back to.

“Rules relating to company pension schemes were also very different. The threshold for being allowed to join was high, excluding most part-time and low paid workers.

“And many company schemes were allowed to exclude women. Back then, if you hadn’t paid five full years into a pension scheme when you left the job, you got contributions back – you couldn’t transfer them.”

Ms Madden highlighted the financial challenges faced by this group of women, many of whom rely solely on the state pension for a source of income in later life.

Describing the matter as “devastating”, the WASPI chair lamented there was no alternate plan for those impacted at the time. 

Finally, Ms Madden was asked what difference compensation would make to the lives of 1950s women. 

She concluded: “Some women would say it would revolutionise their lives. Some have to make difficult decisions about the little they have and what they spend it on.

“For example, we use the internet almost totally for the campaign. But a lot of WASPI women can’t afford the monthly fee for the internet in their homes, so they walk to the nearest library.

“But for 18 months, libraries have been closed, and we’ve had to work harder to keep those women informed.

“Women have gone into debt, relying on family members and loans. Women who haven’t received their state pension are having to take jobs that they would prefer not to. Maybe they have to work nights, or walk in the dark because they can’t afford to run a car.

“It would make a lot of difference to all our lives. That’s what we need.”

A DWP spokesperson told “Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.

“In a long-overdue move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the state pension age the same for men and women.”

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