‘Fundamentally unfair’ for this universal right to be taken away

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

A fortnight ago, we shared some tales of the difficulties faced by women born in the 1950s who expected to retire at 60, but have been forced to change their plans. Here are some more from across north Northumberland:

Sally, born 1955

Members of the Berwick WASPI group campaigning in Amble.

Members of the Berwick WASPI group campaigning in Amble.

I gave up work last March to care for my elderly father who is 87 and who suffers from COPD and is unable to look after himself. I assumed I would be in receipt of my pension last July when I turned 60 and would be able to afford to do this. When I found out that I would not receive my pension until I was 66 and had already given up my employment, I got a hell of a shock.

I didn’t want to put my father in a care home so my husband and I sold our home and moved in with my father to care for him 24 hours a day – which is what he needs. My husband has a small occupational pension (he was made redundant in 2014) and will receive his state pension in December 2016. I am in receipt of Carer’s Allowance of £62 a week. So we had to sell our own home in order to be able to look after my father. We are living on our savings and the proceeds of the sale of our house, Carer’s Allowance and my husband’s small occupational pension.

If my father had gone into a care home this would have cost the Government a minimum of £500 a week.

Sue, born 1955

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

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

I had heard bits and pieces about the rise of age in state pension in early 2000ish I think, but the dates were so vague and often changed so I didn’t take too much notice as I thought, ‘If it’s going to affect me then I’ll be informed by the DWP’. I had also had several updates regarding my teachers’ pension during the years 2000 to 2008 which when referring to state pension stated ‘your state pension age is 60’. I thought nothing more of it as they are a very large organisation and I therefore assumed they would have accurate information.

I was first written to by the pension service in February 2012: ‘State pension age is increasing from 65 to 66. This affects men and women born on or after 6 December 1953...the earliest date from which you could be entitled to any State Pension is 06/03/2020’.

I was 57 and eight months expecting my pension in two years and four months to be told I wouldn’t get it for eight years and a month – nearly six years’ difference.

I had already retired in 2009 with a small teachers’ pension, small because I had worked as a part-time youth worker in my earlier career and was not eligible to join the pension scheme as a part-time worker. I had also taken time out when my children were small to care for them and didn’t return till the youngest started school. I retired early to help look after my ageing mother-in-law and to help my daughters with childcare on their return to work.

My mortgage is paid and I have a husband who has a private pension and we have some savings. I am one of the lucky ones! If I was a single woman, it would be a different story.
I couldn’t live on my small private pension and I would have to try and find work – at nearly 62 not a prospect I would find easy as I have severe arthritis in both knees.

The point I am making is that many, many women cannot go back to work, many women have no other pension or savings, may be single or widowed, may have dependent relatives – the list goes on.
We have been badly informed, and in fact misinformed. We are a generation who has had to fight inequality in the workplace and lack of childcare and support when we did manage to balance a career with home life. The lack of information and the extremely short notice is disgraceful.
Personally I feel having to wait six years is unacceptable. I would have accepted one or perhaps two years while this ‘equalisation’ is brought in. Anything else is unacceptable.

Susan, born 1954

I’ve been planning to retire at 60 for years. I worked hard, saved and invested money in long-term share-save schemes to fund my pension pot. However, the financial crash wiped away the careful planning in one swoop.

As part of the plan, I moved to Northumberland in 2010 with my husband and continued to work full-time in Edinburgh. The 110-mile round trip was minimised by staying in Edinburgh two to three nights a week, but doable as 2014 and retirement was in sight. I had not received any notification from the DWP following the 1995 changes, but had confirmation of my SPA being 64 years six months when I asked for an eStatement in 2011.

Later that year, I received a letter adding a further 18 months taking me to 66! I have a small occupational pension, but it’s not enough to keep me and I rely on my husband’s pension to keep afloat. I could not have done more to prepare, but without doubt, the Government failed in its duty to notify me and is failing again now to provide transitional support over the coming years. Not receiving my state pension for six years causes me financial pain – who wouldn’t feel such a loss? The shortfall is huge. 

So many politicians have proved themselves to be removed from our reality, but to treat women with such disrespect after making a lifetime of contributions and bringing up the current contributing generation is truly shameful.

Larraine, born 1953

I was aware of my pension dates changing for the first time earlier than some, only because I asked for a pension forecast. I have met many women who had no notification. Even Conservative MPs have said they were not informed. I thought at that time that the rate of change was steep, adding additional years wait to some women who had been born only a few months later than others. For example, I was born in September 1953 and know many women born in that year who have and will receive their pension years before me.

However, I accepted the change and the precept of equality of ages between men and women. I was then, however, extremely annoyed to be informed in 2011 that another year had been put onto my state pension age. I was unaware of any consultation about this and felt that an agreement had been broken. I felt that the small amount of notice was unrealistic for women to again adjust their pension plans. It was at this point that I felt I needed to make a stand and wrote to my MP and signed the WASPI petition. I feel that it is fundamentally unfair that a universal right should be taken away by Government with little notice and no consultation.

More about the WASPI campaign nationally and locally

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.

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.

Their petition to the Government – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110776 – has achieved more than 176,000 signatures nationally and 430 in the Berwick constituency.

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.

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.