Campaigners hear tales of women’s pensions misery

Members of the Berwick-upon-Tweed WASPI group campaigning in Alnwick.
Members of the Berwick-upon-Tweed WASPI group campaigning in Alnwick.
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The Berwick constituency chapter of a national women’s pensions campaign group has been out and about in Alnwick and Berwick talking to women about the changes to their state pension age.

Many women expected to retire at 60 and were dismayed to find out when they were 58 or 59 that they had to wait another six years for their pension.

Members of the Berwick-upon-Tweed WASPI group campaigning in Berwick.

Members of the Berwick-upon-Tweed WASPI group campaigning in Berwick.

Hundreds of thousands of women born in the 1950s are affected nationally and a campaign group, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), has been set up to try to secure a better deal for the affected women.

As previously reported, a launch event for the Berwick WASPI group was held in Wooler last month and since then, the women have been raising awareness across the constituency.

In Alnwick and Berwick last week, the campaigners encountered many women who had not heard that their pension age had altered until very shortly before they thought they were going to retire. Here are some of their stories:

Sheila, from Belford: “My husband was in the army so I couldn’t have a well-paid career. I supported him and as we moved around, I worked doing whatever jobs I could do and which fitted in with looking after the children. Mainly shop work. Then when I was 48 I got divorced. My settlement was based on state pension age at 60 so even lawyers and judges didn’t know about the change. I was totally shocked to get a letter from the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) just a couple of years ago to tell me I now have to work till I’m over 65. I’m now 62 and I find work hard. I’m on my feet all day and I need a knee replacement but am putting it off because I can’t afford to have time off or pack up work. I’ve got small savings but I’m really worried I’m going to end up having problems and being unfit to work and being poor.”

Joanne, from Powburn: “I had to retire due to ill health from my job as a mental health nurse practitioner when I was 58. Then my husband died but I thought I’d be okay financially with my NHS and widow’s pension until my state pension came through. It was when I was informing the DWP about my change in circumstances that they told me my state pension was now delayed till I was 64. I was shocked. I’d sold my house and had just relocated and moved to a small cottage when I was then told that it increased again and I now have to wait another year and eight months. I feel like everything I worked for has been taken from me and, even though I’ve carefully planned, that the rug has been pulled from under my feet. This is just really wrong.”

Maureen, Tweedmouth: “I’ve worked and paid NI (National Insurance) for 38 years. I found out only when I asked for a pension statement when I was 58 that I wasn’t going to get my pension when I was 60. I thought it was a mistake and was furious when I found out it wasn’t and that the DWP hadn’t told me. Then to be told it was because of equality and I’ve read MPs even blaming the EU. I never had equality. I even had a case when the law came out for equal pay for work of equal value which I won against my employer. If it was equality, then why didn’t they put it to 60 for men and women. If it’s the EU then the UK are the worst anyway. I’m lucky I’m still fit enough and have a job I can continue in but this isn’t what I planned for. I wanted to enjoy my retirement and I can’t now because I’m not getting the money I expected.”

Linda, Rothbury: “I’m self-employed with my own little business, but I was relying on my pension. I’ve always paid my NI and I even topped it up to cover when I had my children and then went back to work just part-time and so I would be sure to have 31 years to get the full state pension. It was a friend who first told me about the increase in pension age and for me it increased twice and it’s now 65. No notice. No apology. I really hope that the Government will give us compensation because this is wrong.” (This woman didn’t know that the NI qualifying period had now changed to 35 years.)

Lesley, Berwick: “I’ve got my own business and hoped to continue to work past my 60th birthday providing I was still able to. But that’s my choice and my plan. I’m livid that I wasn’t told state pension had increased for women until I was 59. What they’ve done to me amounts to about £30,000. I really hope the politicians who did this care enough to put it right. This all made me sign the petition.”

Susan, Wooler: “For the first time in my life I’m totally dependent on being supported by my husband who has a state and company pension. I’m not happy about that. This isn’t just or fair because I worked hard and contributed for my state pension. I’ve always worked for small employers so never had chance to join a pension scheme and my personal pension plan just hasn’t delivered what it first promised and that’s down to the Government not regulating them properly. I’m really concerned for all the women who have been abandoned with no money and who must be genuinely desperate.”

It is estimated that around 20,000 women could be affected by these pension changes in Northumberland.

The campaign group urges everyone to sign the WASPI petition at http://tinyurl.com/qb36da4 and to contact Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan. If you would like to join the Berwick WASPI group, email localgroups.setup@gmail.com for further details.