Shin­ing a light on the pen­sion trap of­ten hid­den from view

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Women Against State Pen­sion In­jus­tice

IN THIS Age of Aus­ter­ity many who bear the brunt are in­vis­i­ble to the rest of us. We see the grow­ing num­bers of home­less men and women on our streets but those suf­fer­ing abrupt and sav­age re­duc­tions to their in­come and en­ti­tle­ments are of­ten thrown into cri­sis and hid­den from view.

One such group is the Waspi women. Across Bri­tain they num­ber some 3.8mil­lion; in Cheltenham alone there are around 5,600 women who have fallen into the Waspi pen­sions trap.

Women Against State Pen­sion In­jus­tice have been fight­ing back since 2015 against the with­drawal of pen­sion rights for women born in the 1950s.

Cheltenham Waspi co-or­di­na­tor Hi­lary Simpson met re­cently with the Labour Party Women’s Group to re­hearse the ar­gu­ments and map out ways for­ward.

Al­though the roots of the Waspi in­jus­tice go back decades, Waspi women can rightly claim to be vic­tims of aus­ter­ity, caught up in the cost-cut­ting frenzy in­tro­duced by the Con­ser­va­tive-led coali­tion fol­low­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial crash.

It’s now 24 years since leg­is­la­tion was passed in Bri­tain to equalise the pen­sion age for men and women. At that time, the re­tire­ment age for women was 60, 65 for men.

Plans were set out to phase in changes grad­u­ally, by April 2020.

But these were torn up by gov­ern­ment in 2011 when the dead­line was abruptly brought for­ward to 2018.

Many women af­fected had no idea their en­ti­tle­ments had changed.

Cheltenham’s Waspi cam­paign has many case stud­ies of women whose lives were dev­as­tated by this sud­den, unan­tic­i­pated loss of pen­sion rights.

Some had been forced to leave work early, through ill­ness or to care for el­derly rel­a­tives, and had ex­pected to lose some pen­sions en­ti­tle­ment as a re­sult.

They did not ex­pect to be aban­doned en­tirely, in their early Six­ties.

Waspi women are not look­ing to set the clock back pre-1995. They want com­pen­sa­tion for women who have suf­fered un­der these ‘stealth’ changes, and tran­si­tional pay­ments to re­store a de­gree of eq­uity to women now ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment age.

Per­mis­sion was granted two months ago for a Ju­di­cial Re­view into the le­gal­ity and the mis­han­dling of pen­sion changes for women.

If the Court finds in their favour, gov­ern­ment will have to ad­dress an in­jus­tice it has paid no more than lip-ser­vice to in the in­ter­ven­ing years.

Waspi co-or­di­na­tor Hi­lary Simpson will be ad­dress­ing our Labour Women’s Group on March 9 as we cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day (March 8) with a range of lo­cal groups.

We hope Cheltenham Waspi women will join us: 2-4pm, Satur­day March 9, School House Café, St Paul’s Road, GL50 4EZ.

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