'Robbed of our retirement'

Like many women, Lin Phillips started work straight out of school in the Sixties. Originally working in a bank and later selling new homes, she stayed in work and paid her National Insurance contributions for 43 years, only taking a couple of short breaks to have her two children. Lin worked hard and was looking forward to receiving her state pension at 60 so she could enjoy a well-deserved retirement with her family.

So it came as a huge shock when she discovered in around 2013, almost by accident, that she would have to wait another six years to just before she turned 66 in May 2020, to receive her state pension. This is all down to a change in the state pension age for women born on or after April 6, 1950, and is thought to affect millions of women.

Unfortunately for Lin, these changes were a particularly sore blow as she was made redundant at 58, leaving her out of work and almost eight years away from receiving her state pension. “At my age, I’ve found it very difficult to find work so I’m relying on temp work with irregular pay as well as on my husband, which I don’t like at all because I’ve never had to do that,” says Lin.

“Fifties women have been discriminated against for a long time. When I went to work in the Sixties, women were excluded from joining the company pension scheme. And if you worked part-time to look after children you also couldn’t get a company pension. So a lot of women like me couldn’t even make alternative financial plans for later life, even if they wanted to.”

To make matters worse, Lin (pictured above) says she never received a letter notifying her of the changes to her pension, a claim many other women have also made, blaming ‘bungled’ communication from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

“I watch the news and keep up-to-date with things so I’m surprised I didn’t know about the changes before. I’m angry and upset to have lost almost £40,000 – which would have been my pension – with such little notice.

Today, if someone’s getting an increase to their pension or there’s a change in winter fuel allowance, for example, the government writes to everyone affected. And yet they didn’t see fit to properly inform women who were going to lose significant amounts of money.”

That’s why Lin teamed up with four other women to form the Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign (WASPI), which has now amassed an army of other women affected by the changes.

What these women are campaigning against is not the change itself – they’re in total agreement with the equalisation of men and women – but the fact women weren’t notified of the changes in enough time. They’re now asking the government to make fair transitional arrangements for the women affected to tide them over for the extra years before they get their pension. 

And so far the WASPI campaign has had huge support. 140,000 signatures on their online petition forced Parliament to debate the issue in February.

While the government’s official line is still that the pension changes will not be reviewed, WASPI are not backing down and are urging all women affected to speak to their MP about the issue. It’s hoped that with enough support from MPs, the issue could go to a vote in Parliament – a recent backbench vote on the issue came out 158-0 in their favour, by the way.

“I’ve heard from so many women who are struggling to make endsmeet due to the changes, as well as women forced to carry on working when they’re not well or are carers. Because of that, we’ll all keep beavering away and encouraging women to get buzzing in the ears of their MP. It’s a ridiculous situation and we want something done about it.”

The story so far

Legislation was originally passed in 1995 to bring women’s state pension age in line with men’s for the sake of equality and to make up for the fact many of us are living longer. The plan was to gradually raise the age to 65 between 2010 and 2020. But in 2007 it was announced that the retirement age would increase to 66 between 2024 and 2026. In 2011,  the timing was brought forward to 2018 and 2020 respectively, meaning women were hit by changes to their pension sooner than expected, not giving them time to make alternative plans.  2.6 million women were given just five years’ notice that their pension age had been extended, leaving many living on an annual income ofless than £8,000 while they wait. Around 48,000 women will also lose as much as £12,000 as a result of the changes, but some will lose much more.

For more information

If you would like to sign the petition, visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110776. You can find the WASPI campaign Facebook page here.

If you need free financial help, speak to Pension Wise (0800 100 166/www.pensionwise.gov.uk), Citizens Advice Bureau (0344 411 1444 in England or 0344 477 020 in Wales
/www.citizensadvice.org.uk) or Money Advice Service (0300 500 5000/www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk)

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