Spring Statement: Thewliss calls for support for WASPI women
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MORE than 3.5 million women born in the 1950s who were forced to work up to six years longer than expected have fought long and hard for redress. They call themselves Waspi women, which stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice, and refuse to give up the fight.
Waspi campaigners argued that they were not given sufficient warning of the change, which saw their retirement age jump from 60 to 65, and then 66 in 2020.
Many did not realise until the last minute that they would have to work for five or six years longer, and suffered massive hardship.
One year ago this month, Waspi women were celebrating a ruling by the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman.
It said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should have written individual letters to affected women 28 months before it finally sent them out, which it called “maladministration”.
Hilary Simpson, chair of Waspi 2018, said the lack of notice had devastating effects for thousands of women whose plans for life after 60 were shattered. “Some had to sell or re-mortgage their homes, while others had to continue working despite ill health.”
Many were unable to do so due to failing health and scraped by on state benefits, or died before receiving a penny in pension. “Others had to abandon commitments they had made to their families to provide care for grandchildren or elderly relatives,” Simpson said.
The Ombudsman’s announcement only concluded the first stage of its investigation. It is now deep into the second stage, whether the maladministration led to injustice, which Simpson hopes will be completed “any day now”.
The third and final stage will be a recommendation to Parliament, with MPs having the final say.
Waspi women have been working to get MPs onside, and have won support from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Lib Dem leader Ed Davies, as well as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru and even some Tory MPs.
Campaigners refuse to put a figure on how much compensation they want, but previous calculations suggest that if they do get anything, it might be substantial.
During the 2019 general election, then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the country owed a “moral debt” to Waspi woman and promised them an average payment of £15,380.
Some of those hardest hit would get up to £31,300.
The Liberal Democrats say Waspi women should get £15,000 each. In its submission to the Ombudsman, the Women All-Party Parliamentary Group suggested they get at least £10,000.
The DWP has fought back, pointing out that the Government decided to equalise the State Pension age for men and women more than 25 years ago, as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
It said it had been supported by both the High Court and Court of Appeal, which found it acted entirely lawfully and did not discriminate on any grounds.
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Waspi women refuse to accept these arguments and felt vindicated by the Ombudsman’s ruling.
They are now waiting to see what it will decide.
If the Ombudsman says the maladministration did lead to injustice, their hopes of a financial settlement will rise sharply.
Any other result would come as a huge disappointment for women who have suffered years of hardship.
Simpson said they are are not giving up. “Our campaign is determined to see this through to the bitter end and obtain justice via fair and fast compensation.”
They continue to hold protests, parades, public awareness sessions and other activities to highlight their struggle.
Simpson said: “1950s women will not be side-lined, they are not a soft touch, and they are not going away.”
Waspi women have lost none of their sting. Now the day of reckoning is edging closer.
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