For years women born in the 1950s have been fighting for pension justice, including over 7000 women living here in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.
Despite paying year after year into their pension, over 2.6 million women born in the 1950s have to wait up to an additional two and a half years before they can retire. All because of ham-fisted changes made many years ago that adjusted pension qualifying ages for women from 60 to 65, increasing to 66 years of age from 2020.
Successive UK Governments failed to tell these women about the pension changes which were agreed back in 1995—leaving many of them without adequate time to plan for their future. The first many knew about the changes were when they saw reports in the news many years later.
Determined to fight this injustice, women affected came together and set up a Women Against State Pension Equality campaign group. The WASPI women have been fierce and unwavering in their drive to get the justice they deserve. My SNP colleagues and I will continue to do all we can to support their campaign to urge the UK Government to right this wrong.
Last week, their campaign received another significant justification when the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) had dragged its heels over crucial communications with those affected by the changes.
The UK Government sent targeted mailings in 2009 to inform those affected, but letters paused again in 2011 while legislation affecting the very same women passed through Parliament, adding to the confusion. Letters then resumed in 2012 – by then, it was too late for women who had planned the next stage of their lives around what they had understood to be their retirement age.
The WASPI campaign group point out that although the letters sent out were concise, clear and targeted, they were ultimately useless because they were delivered so late – over 14 years after the changes were agreed. Women had been expecting their pensions, had no time to plan for their very delayed retirement. Those who had made decisions on out-of-date knowledge were left high and dry.
The Ombudsman’s report is damning of the DWP’s handling of communications with the women affected, effectively finding that ministers continued to take the same action despite knowing it wasn’t working and that women were being left in the dark about their retirement.
We all accept that changing life expectancy patterns requires governments’ response, but the treatment these women have endured is profoundly unfair. Had they been informed about the pension changes, they would have had time to plan, and for many, that would have included making different financial decisions.
Undoubtedly, women born in the 1950s have suffered an enormous injustice that the Ombudsman has now recognised. They’ve been robbed of the retirement they deserve. Its high time the full effect of the catalogue of errors by successive administrations is accepted and rectified by the UK Government.
For more on WASPI visit their website here.
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