A group of five women have joined together to campaign against pension injustice under the name “Women Against State Pension Inequality”, or “WASPI”.
The WASPI group and its army of supporters (they’ve reached over 33,000 “likes” on their Facebook page) support equalising men’s and women’s pension ages – their protest is centred around the lack of communication from the government, which has given many women little time to adjust their long-term retirement plans in accordance with the changes.
The first Pension Act was passed in 1995, but it was only in 2009 that the government began to directly contact the individual women affected. This ground to a halt in 2011 because a further Pension Act raised the pension age by yet another year.
Some affected women were given just 18 months’ notice of the changes, which, in a lot of cases, equates to “too little, too late”.
Many women are already out of work for a variety of reasons including redundancy, acting as full-time carers for spouses or elderly parents, or having taken an early retirement with a view to living off savings until state pension age arrives.
WASPI’s campaign aims to secure “fair transitional arrangements” for these women to compensate for the government’s failure to communicate the changes in due time.
WASPI has had success garnering publicity and support through their relentless social media campaigns – their Parliament petition reached almost 200,000 signatures, sparking a House of Commons debate in February.
Shadow pensions minister Angela Rayner and MP Mhairi Black have been vocal in their support for WASPI, financial journalists have weighed in on the subject and the movement has been discussed on the BBC Radio 4 show, “Money Box”, in an interview with pensions minister Ros Altmann.
The group is rallying its supporters for a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on 29 June, where they will sing their “WASPI Anthem”, a protest song that they recorded and released in March.
Prospect member Jan Thomas is one of the many women affected. Jan, who works as a field interviewer for the Office of National Statistics, says: “I was very disappointed that in the March 2016 Budget, the Chancellor did not make any provision for transitional arrangements for women like myself affected by the very short notice of the rise in state pension age. Having worked all my life and with over 35 years of full NI contributions, I had always expected to get my state pension at age 60 – but the goal posts have now been moved to age 66.”
Sue Ferns, Prospect deputy general secretary, said: “The WASPI campaign is inspirational in its growth, presence and persistence. It emerges from years of failure from successive governments to tell individuals about their state pensions. Prospect has told government and MPs that regular, targeted communications are necessary to inform people of their state pension entitlements. Until we get that members are advised to look into their state pensions on both the gov.uk and Prospect state pension websites.”
Government information on state pensions can be seen at https://www.gov.uk/new-state-pension.
Prospect has a wealth of information at www.prospect.org.uk/statepensions.