LibLink: Christine Jardine WASPI women stung as the social contract breaks down

We know that one of the issues Christine Jardine has really got the fire in her belly about is the injustice suffered by women born in the 1950s over their State Pension. Some have to wait as much as six extra years for their State Pension and only found out about it at the last minute.

She’s written for the Scotsman about how this is another example of the social contract breaking down.

Ironically one woman who’s affected is Theresa May but she’s shown no signs of wanting to help her fellow 1950s women:

She was born in the 1950s, she’s female, and she’s just past what would have been her expected retirement age.

But the Prime Minister is in a rather privileged situation, and unlike 6 thousand WASPI women in Edinburgh West, she doesn’t need to worry about when she’ll receive her state pension.

Which for many of us makes it all the more surprising, and frustrating that she is not part of the campaign to get justice for those who have been affected by the shambles caused when the state pension age was equalised for men and women.

Many of the women affected were only months from being 60 when they discovered they would have to wait up to six years longer for their state pension.

Their retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.

One of the first people to visit me when I became an MP was one of these so called WASPI women – named after the inspirational group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI)  which is campaigning for “fair transitional state pension arrangements.”

That woman – let’s call her Helen – had been 18 months from retirement when she took redundancy from the bank she worked in, thinking that her settlement would see her through to her retirement and her pension.

Then she learned she would have to wait almost a decade to get access to the pot she had been paying into all her working life.

Now she has two part time cleaning jobs and crippling arthritis in her knees.

It’s for women like her that myself and other MPs from all parties, are taking on Theresa May’s Government.

Each time I see her in the commons I have to resist the urge to point out to the Prime Minister: “That could have been you.”

She looks at how the Government could help the women who have been affected:

For example the WASPI group favours a ‘bridging pension’ paid from age 60 to the state retirement age. This would compensate those at risk of losing up to around £45,000.

But it’s not the only possible solution. I have also signed a Private Member’s Bill calling for a review of the best way of finding some sort of justice and compensation.

But Ministers refuse to budge.

Astonishingly, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey has declared that she has no plans to even meet with representatives of the WASPI campaign.

Contrast that with the speech to Lib Dem conference a couple of weeks ago by my colleague and friend Jo Swinson.

She spoke about how the ‘social contract’ – fundamental in binding our society together – was being torn apart.

When I think about the WASPI women I meet regularly in my constituency, or the stories they tell me of the hardship they have faced because of pension changes, I couldn’t agree with Jo more.

These women were told from a young age that if they studied hard, if they worked hard,and they paid their national insurance in return they would earn a decent wage and could be sure of dignity and a decent quality of life in retirement.

But the way WASPI women have been treated by their own government shows us that those basic truths underpinning our shared responsibility to one another across society, have broken down.

Why should the social contract mean anything now to women who have worked so hard all their lives, only to be told to shelve their plans for a dignified retirement to carry on for up to seven years longer?

You can read the whole article here.

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15 Comments

  • nigel hunter 2nd Oct '18 - 10:32am

    This is interesting. Maybe more publicity could be used to point out Mays position and that of the position of the women involved .

  • Martin Land 2nd Oct '18 - 1:16pm

    I was living in France 23 years ago when the initial change was announced – and yet I heard about it. A welcome step forward in equality between men and women.

  • Kay Kirkham 2nd Oct '18 - 4:08pm

    Martin – I knew about it too ( and am not actually effected have been born it February 1950) but that doesn’t mean it was defensible not to communicate directly with the women who were losing out so that they had time to make alternative arrangements. Would you negotiate your pension arrangements through the media or by press release?

  • Mark Seaman 2nd Oct '18 - 8:47pm

    Having worked in HMRC and it’s prior organisations during this period, I’m pretty sure that direct communications were sent to all those that would be affected; but sadly many people make no attempt to keep their Tax/National Insurance contact details up to date, and even when contacted using employer held information, will simply not respond to confirm that they have moved address. The changes were a major news item, including asking people to go on-line and check their pension date using a simple Date of Birth check.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Oct '18 - 7:24am

    These women now in their 60s suffered two increases. The first they had sufficient notice for and no doubt made arrangements. It was the second increase that was the great injustice for which they had no time to plan.

    And when in Coalition we had the chance to put this right we let them down: with a mealy-mouthed solution which in some cases ‘brought forward’ their pension date by just a few days or a couple of weeks at the most.

    Another example of the callous Coalition of 2010/15

    I do hope this campaign is successful, but I hope those pushing it now were at the time publicly opponents of the Coalition policy.

  • Rita Giannini 3rd Oct '18 - 11:30am

    I was born in 1958 and I am one of these women. I was sent a communication well in advance to let me know what my date of retirement would be, and I have no complains. I can understand there will be some cases of hardship, and we need to look at these, but the increase in pensionable age is right. The fact that at 25 I expected to retire at 60 it is not a good reason to still expect it at 55; really there are no reasons why women should retire earlier than men.

  • It was in 1995 that the Labour government equalized retirement ages following a ruling that having different ages was in violation of the ECHR. How can anyone object to that? It affected women born after 5th April 1950. Those born after 6th March 1955 would retire in 2020. So the question that needs answering is how much notice should these woman have been given. Was 15 years enough? Was 25 years enough?

    Do we really believe that the equalisation should have been brought in for 18 year olds so only those born after 1976 should have been affected?

    The Coalition government could have done something to fix this. It could have restored the retirement age for women born between 6th April 1950 and 31st December 1976. It didn’t; instead it passed the Pensions Act 2011 which brought in the 65 year old retirement age for women even quicker. So all women born after 6th March 1953 would retire when older and those born after 6th November 1953 would retire at 65.

    In 2014 the Coalition government extended the retirement ages for both men and women born after 1953 and those born after 6th October 1954 to 66 and those born after 6th April 1960 to above 66 and those born between 6th March 1961 and 5th April 1969 to 67. This was even less notice. There is more of a case to do something for some of these people. A person expecting to retire on their 65th birthday on say 1st November 2019 was told with less than 6 years to go that they would have to work another year.

    Steve Webb was the Minister for State Pensions during all of the Coalition period.

    I don’t think this should be at the top of the list of all the Coalition’s mistakes for us to put right.

  • Old Liberal 5th Oct '18 - 1:10am

    It is interesting to note that in 2012, those men who only had personal pensions and annuities had had a cut imposed on them with less than two years notice. However there were no senior Lib Dems making a case for them, even though they would receive their pension on average for a much shorter period than women in the same situation would.

    It was an EU decision and a Lib Dem was coalition pensions minister at the time. Did we not support those people because it was the EU that proposed it, because it was Steve Webb who oversaw it or just because it was men who suffered from it?

  • Whatever compensation the WASPIs are seeking, I imagine they want men to get compensation pro rata ? No one wrote to me to tell me I would have to work another year, but then I do listen to the news…….

  • paul holmes 5th Oct '18 - 9:29am

    @MichaelBG. Not disagreeing with your factual points, other than to note that it was a Conservative Government in 1995 not Labour.

  • >So the question that needs answering is how much notice should these woman have been given. Was 15 years enough? Was 25 years enough?

    Notice was giving in the mid 1980’s, of the government’s intention to raise the pension age to 70. However, given the nature of the change and the need for people to make the necessary long-term arrangements, the government took sometime in coming up with a formula to introduce the changes, this was finally crystallised in the 1995 Act.

    I suspect some people may be getting confused by the differences between state pension age and private pension age. So for example, many private schemes allow for payments to be made from 60, whereas they may not be entitled to their state pension until they are 68.

  • I was born early 1950s. I can say with hand on heart that I NEVER had a letter informing me of pension age change. The first I knew was when I rang to ask about my national insurance years as I knew I had nearly got the max 30 years contributions. I was shocked to learn that not only was the state pension age being raised but I now needed 35 years national insurance to get my pension! Having been made redundant age 60 I was forced to sign on and went for loads of interviews with people half my age. I also had to attend a humiliating course run by Ingeus where you are taught basics like interview skills. I wonder how much money the government is spending on these course for women age 60 plus and how much in job seekers and benefits. I bet its not far off state pension anyway. All badly done.

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