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Steve Bee: Hammond ignores Waspi women again

The chancellor’s last Budget before Brexit extended generosity to many, but made no mention at all of the plight of the four million women in financial hardship due to the recent seismic shifts in the state pension age.

As Hammond took a seat at the end of his speech, some of the 80 or so Women Against State Pension Inequality members watching and waiting for an acknowledgement in the Commons’ public gallery banged on the glass screen.

According to press reports, some MPs turned and applauded these modern-day suffragettes as they chanted “shame on you” and waved their banners.

The Waspi campaign is not going away. Indeed, it appears so unseemly and unnecessary that its well-documented case still seems to get ignored.

The legislation that equalised the state pension age for men and women at the age of 65 and provided for further increases to that common retirement age was passed a long time ago in 1995.

The legislation to accelerate that increase in the common retirement age was passed in 2011. It was only at this later stage, when the increases were brought forward, that many of those affected by the 1995 changes actually found out about them for the first time. The Waspi campaign grew out of the sense of bewilderment and unease accompanying that realisation.

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The obvious problem is that the original changes to the retirement age were simply not communicated effectively.

That lack of communication left many with little or no time to change their retirement plans, restricting the choices available to a whole generation of women as they reached their senior years.

This is what needs to be urgently addressed. The changes to the state pension age were debated by parliament over a long period of time and were planned to take effect many decades after the legislation was passed.

That is exactly what you would expect; the ship of state does not need to turn on a sixpence where pension matters are concerned.

Steve Bee: Why still no justice for Waspi women?  

The savings made as a result have clearly been substantial and the public purse will receive the expected benefits of that in future years. But given the amounts involved – both to the state and individuals – and the importance of them to the wellbeing of our mutual economy, surely it would have made sense back in 1995 for the government to have embarked on a comprehensive communication programme to ensure all those affected understood what was happening and why.

For a tiny fraction of the savings being made, surely each of those involved could have been sent a letter with a second-class stamp to explain the changes to them?

Such relatively negligible expense would have at least allowed those able to amend their retirement plans to do so, and would have gone a long way towards generating a timely national debate about how those most vulnerable might be properly protected.

Steve Bee is director at Jargonfree Benefits



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There are 26 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Christopher Petrie 9th November 2018 at 1:20 pm

    The problem is that the 2011 changes involved men as well, so they would have equal claim to the way in which the 2011 timetable was made. The government still has a huge National Debt to pay down, it simply won’t pay back-dated pensions to anybody now.

    Countries across the world have raised and equalised pensions by now. Our neighbours, Ireland (sharing a border with northern Ireland) is now age 66 for all.

    The government have stuck it out. The Opposition make sympathetic sounds, but won’t do anything as their priorities will be very much elsewhere if they come to power – renationalisation etc etc.

    People all retire at 65 now, and this is going up to 66 for all in 2 years. It would be almost impossible – probably illegal – to select a group of people and say a special case will be made for them. Take the 1950’s argument for instance….what about those born on 1 January 1960?

    I think this is just the way of the world now. It’s not just equality these days, it’s become gender-neutrality. Within a decade, it’s likely most official forms will no longer ask a persons sex/gender. Not least, because that previously simple question has become fiendishly complicated nowadays. For good or bad, gender neutrality is about here and will be here for the foreseeable future.

    • I’m sorry Chris but your comments do not hold water. This government has given tax cuts that will, mostly, help the already wealthy. All of these various cuts, since 2010, would have gone some way to addressing the problem (not in full)but you are just repeating the mantra that the government constantly uses, whilst giving tax cuts to the people that don’t need or deserve them.

      These women have been robbed and you should have some sympathy for them and be prepared to support their stance. Maybe you would if you were in their position yourself.

      • So come on Patrick, lay your cards on the table, who do you think is going to pay the huge cost that would be incurred if WASPI got their way?

        Yes maybe there should have been an official communication in 1995, but if they were honestly so desperate to retire at age 60, why is it that they never thought to find out anything about their retirement plans?

        What exactly is the hardship in having to work a a few more years? If they are disabled or in ill health then they can claim benefits for those that exceed state pension, so what exactly is the issue?

        If the state pension is their only pension or such a big part of it, it’s critical, why did they no bother to find out anything about it beforehand?

        In simple terms, they are peeved because they have gotten equality. So basically it’s them screaming “I want”..with no conception or care for how it’s supposed to be paid for.

    • “It would be almost impossible – probably illegal – to select a group of people and say a special case will be made for them. Take the 1950’s argument for instance….what about those born on 1 January 1960?”

      Amongst other things, neither WASPI nor any of the other campaigns have been able to provide a credible explanation as to why a woman born on the 31st December 1959 deserves compensation, but a woman born on the 1st January 1960 has had sufficient notice.

      The stock response of “start your own campaign” is both feeble and selfish, particularly when campaigners make a big play out of “agreeing with equalisation”. In other words, younger women are fine having an equal state pension age with men, as long as 1950s women get sorted out. It’s so absurd you’d think it had to be a parody.

      WASPI is a prime example of taking a genuine grievance (the unfair 2011 Act), and distorting the narrative to campaign for a greater injustice than what exists at present.

  2. How many WASPI women ever received a letter on leaving school (or during their working life) informing them that their retirement age was 60?
    None is my guess. That just didn’t happen – people picked up their expected retirement age by word of mouth and by reading the news. If you then assumed it would never change and have never read a newspaper since….

    • I, personally, know of women that did not know about the change until a year or so ago. Do you, honestly, think Steve Bee (and the many others that have made the same points) are making this stuff up?

      • So the younger generations should just pick up the tab for people not bothering to find out anything about what they were relying on for retirement?

        Any woman who genuinely claims that they didn’t know about changes to state pension age till a year ago must have either been living in a cave or be lying.

        Either way, they expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their refusal to find out anything about their retirement provision. Nothing like taking any responsibility for yourself now is there…

      • But why didn’t they know? Anyone who watches the news or reads a newspaper or talks to anyone at all would know.
        Where and when did they get their expectation of a 60 retirement age – again, I doubt they got a personal letter.

  3. There are £77bn reasons why WASPI’s well-documented case still seems to get ignored.

  4. Andy Robertson-Fox 9th November 2018 at 2:39 pm

    It must be remembered that these Waspi women have not actually been denied any pension to which they are entitled; the retirement age was never set in stone and their eligibility will only be established as and when they attain the SRA defined by the parameters covering their date of birth.
    They may have a case for disappointment at the inadequate notice and short transition period but not financial compensation.
    When one considers the case of the 540,000 frozen pensioners – just 4% of all UK pensioners – who are denied the index linking to their basic pension rate because they are retired abroad in the wrong country one realises how unjustifiable and weak in comparison the Waspi claim is.

    • Andy, I disagree with you statement that Waspi women’s age was not set in stone!
      It was set in stone as that was the retirement age for women up until 2013 when the latest changes came into effect. The new ruling is now “set in stone”
      There should be compensation for these women as they have been placed into a situation without adequate time to plan and pay into retirement savings.

      • Andy Robertson-Fox 9th November 2018 at 5:02 pm

        I was advised in 2004/5 by the international Pensions Service that under the then current regulations my wife’s pension in her own right and subject to her NI contribution record would become payable on her reaching 61 years of age. While for many years it was assumed that state retirement age for men would be 65 and women 60 it was never sacrosanct.

      • Well said Lawrie.

        • Andy Robertson-Fox 9th November 2018 at 6:18 pm

          And I know case where a woman knew of that her pension was not payable at 60 when she was in her early forties because her husband made the relevant enquiries.
          But that does not alter the facts does it?
          It is not a lame excuse but a question of facts…short transition and substandard administration but not eligible until SRA and so no preferential early entitlement

  5. For 2014’s top communicator, this is becoming a bit of a drone. Could Mr Bee get his cards out on the table and tell us if he has a loved one who might be affected by these benefit changes?

    All professional codes suggest you declare all conflicts of interest in advance.

    • That is more than a bit of an attempt at fake news. Find some evidence before making such an accusation, please.

      Do you think there is no chance that Steve Bee just thinks this is unfair?

  6. As I have said before, It can’t be a coincidence that this subject brings out a lot of comments that disparage women and the fact that they have far less in pension savings than men do (as I’m sure you will understand if you think about the reasons for that) and that many WASPI women will suffer genuine hardship (not all, I admit).

    Very sorry situation with you guys.

  7. I was one of the angry WASPI women who disrupted Parliament after the budget and some weeks before held up the rush hour traffic outside Westminster. Adding to the problems is the lack of inequality throughout the working lives of 1950’s born women. Made redundant at 62 I am still encountering that same inequality and prejudice in trying to get another job whilst having to wait an extra 6 years for my Pension.

  8. Politicians inhabit the Westminster bubble and have lost touch with life in the real world. It is outrageous how these women have been treated and many are suffering real hardship but then this government and previous governments have never empathized with the plight of seniors who struggle to live on one of the lowest pensions in the world. In fact they pick on pensioners whenever they can. Andy Robertson Fox has highlighted the frozen state pension scandal, this has been allowed to go for decades despite years of fighting for justice so I’m afraid the WASPI’s protests will also fall on deaf ears. Seniors are no longer of use once past their working years and therefore very low on the list of Politian’s priorities.

  9. Eight years ago the Government website calculated my state pension age to be 60. I was born in 1958, and therefore this information was incorrect.

  10. There is little doubt this is an issue of poor Government communication, but the DWP has been guilty of poor communication, in my personal experience, for several years. I discovered many examples of poor communication from DWP International Newcastle and took about a dozen of poor letters them, to the offices there in Newcastle. I laid these letters on the table and had supervisors and the Manager look them over to which they were all aghast at the quality of the letters and errors communicated to many women in Australia, all of whom were denied a partial pension to which they should have been allowed to voluntarily contribute from overseas. I too was advised by The government office in Newcastle of my own UK State pension forecast. This was sent to me in Australia by fax, but in 2 pages of close type, no mention was made that when I was to be eventually provided with my partial UK pension, it would be never increase, but would be frozen for the rest of my life. In 2007, I guess embarrassed by so many errors in their recent communications, the DWP introduced the Deficiency Notice Exercise [DNE] in which anyone who felt they had been poorly advised, and denied a pension, were able to receive a pension to which they had previously, and in error, been denied. Thousands took advantage the of this DNE which lasted for 3 years.

  11. I have sympathy for the cause and certainly ladies should have been advised. I am not sure why Ladies should expect to retire earlier than men, that seems to go against equality. My State Pension age has moved from 65 to 66, because I am nearly there but I accept that the reason is because I will die on average at a later date. For those ladies who would not have attained a full pension at 60 now have a greater chance of a full pension at the state retirement age.

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