WASPI women have been left ‘high and dry’ says David Linden
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At the time, Dee had only expected to work for one more year. “I was devastated,” she tells Express.co.uk during an exclusive interview. “We are having to use our retirement savings to plug any financial gaps and it has meant we both have to work and are often too exhausted – now our health has deteriorated – to give my family the care and support they really need.”
Dee had often worked two or three jobs to provide for her family.
She had resolved with her husband that retirement would be their time to enjoy life as best they could, especially as her husband had worked hard since the age of 16.
They even downsized their home to give themselves a retirement fund.
Shortly before discovering how the changes affected her, Dee’s daughter gave birth to a severely disabled child, so Dee and her husband decided to move down south and rent to support her; shelving her travelling dreams.
“We would not have made the move and put our finances and future retirement security on the line had we known we were about to lose six years of my pension and our future health and plans.
“Working has caused me physical injury and the need for regular physio and I am quite sure the stress has now caused my recently acquired heart condition.
Dee explains her husband was told 15 years ago that if he would need to stop physical labour for his health.
She adds: “One of the reasons we downsized was to alleviate the requirement to work flat out.
Dee campaigning for WASPI women (Image: Dee Wild)
“He now has to work much harder, just to maintain a frugal living for us and I watch him struggle and worry for him.”
After finding out about the state pension age changes, Dee subsequently became involved in the issue as a campaigner under the pseudonym ‘the Persistent Pensioner’.
She found out that the state pension age (SPA) had increased for women from 60 to 65, via a Facebook post by the campaign group WASPI [Women Against State Pension Inequality].
WASPI is a group of women born in the 1950s who have campaigned for years arguing that they weren’t given sufficient notice about the state pension age changes, which is why so many women were caught unaware their state pension age had changed.
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About 3.8 million women were affected nationally by the state pension age changes.
WASPI has argued the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to give the women affected direct warning of the changes.
This has meant that many have been unable to properly prepare their finances for retirement and have had to either make hasty changes, work longer in a jobs market that is notoriously unforgiving of women around this age, or face penury.
A recent Parliamentary Ombudsman report made clear that the DWP were 28 months late in communicating to the women that the change would affect them. The women were contacted in April 2009 instead of December 2006.
The report states: “For women who were not aware of the changes, the opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.”
Those years of campaigning were vindicated in the last week as the Parliamentary Ombudsman found them to have been victims of “maladministration” as the DWP didn’t adequately inform the women of the changes.
Dee says of her husband: “I watch him struggle and worry for him” (Image: Dee Wild)
The Ombudsman, however, does not have the power to refund the lost pensions or the damages caused by the debacle. That power only rests in Parliament.
“There is frankly no excuse for what the government and DWP has done. It has been common knowledge that very little was done. No one needed an Ombudsman report to prove it,”Dee says.
Dee says that the scope of the damage caused is so large that “the injustice has damaged and destroyed life; not only the women affected but the partners and their families”.
“The bill for recompense should consider much more than the £54,000 I have had taken from me with no notice. It should compensate for the distress, devastation and death it has caused.”
What is state pension? (Image: Express)
She says WASPI women “should have had individual letters and update letters from Day One”.
A DWP spokesperson responded to Express.co.uk, saying “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 the claimants permission to appeal.
“In a move towards gender equality, it was decided more than 25 years ago to make the state pension age the same for men and women”.
The State Pensions Act 1995 provided for gender parity for the SPA and changes were accelerated via the Pensions Act 2011.
State pension age parity was achieved in 2018 after the equalisation process began in 2010, working incrementally.
The SPA has since increased to 66 and is set to increase again to 67 by 2028.