WASPI: The women fighting against the great pension sting
Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is an action group campaigning against not only what it deems unfair changes to the state pension age for those born on or after 6th April 1951, but also how said changes have subsequently been implemented.
The WASPI campaign has made waves since its launch, with the campaign being featured in a number of national newspapers, including the Mirror, the Independent and the Guardian, while it has also accrued support from hundreds of thousands of UK residents. The group’s Facebook page has 28,000 likes, while its petition to Parliament – which can be viewed here – has over 165,000 signatures.
For millions of women who believe they were given insufficient warning and lack of notification with regard to the state pension age changes, WASPI is ensuring their voices, opinions and protestations are heard.
We spoke to Linda Phillips, WASPI co-founder, to further understand the group’s aims, ambitions, and plans for the future.
What is the campaign about, and what do you stand for?
We believe that the government must make fair transitional arrangements for all women born in the 1950s who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the state pension age.
Hundreds of thousands of women have had significant changes imposed upon them with a lack of appropriate notification. These women need an entitled income; many have been made redundant or have had to take early retirement due to the austerity cuts. These women have financial commitments and homes to run. Without fair transitional arrangements they will have no way of getting through the 4/5/6 year increase to their state pension age.
Why did the campaign start?
We were angry because we discovered that there was up to a 6-year increase to our state pension age, but the government had failed to inform us. We have evidence courtesy of a freedom of information request that proves the government did not write to any women affected by changes passed in the 1995 Pension Act until nearly 14 years later. In fact, women born in 1953 or 1954, whose state pension age increased by 5 or 6 years, were not sent a letter until almost 17 years after the legislation was passed.
This meant that many women found out about the rising state pension age from the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts just two years prior to their sixtieth birthday, leaving them no time to make alternative financial plans. We should have been told about such significant changes years and years ago, especially when estimations suggest many women could be losing up to £40,000.
What steps would you advise affected women to take?
They need to voice their grievances to someone with the ability to do something about it. Women should go and sit in front of their MP and tell them how they have been affected. WASPI has produced information and a template letter that women, or anyone supporting our campaign, can hand to their MP.
What are your plans for the future?
The campaign has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. WASPI is run by five ordinary women operating from their homes; we have no experience in this field at all, but we are fighting for something we passionately believe in.
We now have a cross-party group being formed in Parliament that will work towards a resolution for us, and we are hopeful of meeting with them soon to discuss possible solutions.