Why I and Plaid Cymru are determined to continue to fight for justice for WASPI women
Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Candidate for Ceredigion
The fight for 1950s women’s pensions was one of the first things I raised in parliament after I was elected and it continues to be a campaign I feel very passionate about.
Thousands of women born in 1950s have been served a terrible injustice by the British government with their pension rights reduced and significant changes to their State Pension age imposed without them knowing.
Back in 1995 the government introduced a gradual increase of the State Pension Age for women from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020 – but did not write to tell them.
In 2011, because of the rise in life expectancy, the British Government decided to accelerate this timetable, starting in April 2016 when women’s State Pension Age was 63 so that it would reach 65 in November 2018. The equalised State Pension age would then rise to 66 by October 2020.
But letters were only sent some fourteen years after the first changes were announced in 1995.
Women were given as little as one year’s notice of up to a six-year increase to their State Pension Age, compared to men who received six years’ notice of a one year rise to their State Pension Age.
Many women report receiving no letter at all and other say letters were sent to the wrong address despite notifying the DWP of the address change.
So despite paying full National Insurance Contributions all their working lives, these women have been told at the last minute that the pensions they had expected at age 60 would be delayed by up to six years. Many women took early retirement or redundancies, leaving them now with lower-than-expected incomes.
Now, the consequences of this poor implementation and communication are likely to be poverty and ill health.
Women have lost their independence. Single, divorced or widowed women often have no other source of income – some have had to rely on husbands or partners to support them. Other women are unable to work as they care for elderly and ill parents or are in ill health themselves.
Many are struggling to make ends meet and are facing the probability of living permanently below the poverty line throughout their retirement.
This fiasco has caused retirement plans to be shattered and women who have planned and saved for their retirement are living on dwindling limited savings until they reach their new State Pension Age when the only income they will have left will be their State Pension.
We know that we need to introduce equality in terms of the state pension age, but we need to do that over a longer time frame and give an opportunity to women to prepare properly for their future and in a way that doesn’t leave them in poverty and distress.
Women in Wales have been hit particularly hard by this scandal.
Their income per capita is lower than it is in other parts of the UK, and, on top of that, women in Wales earn less, on average, than the men of Wales.
Approximately 195,000 women in Wales have been impacted by this scandal – including five thousand in Ceredigion alone.
Over the last two years, I have had the honour of standing shoulder to shoulder with WASPI campaigners in Ceredigion and beyond. I held several public meetings in Ceredigion to raise awareness of the issue followed by practical workshops to encourage constituents to write a letter of complaint to the UK Government.
This led to the establishment of the WASPI Ceredigion campaign group – a group of inspirational women who have campaigned with energy, creativity and determination over the past 12 months.
I am determined to continue to fight for justice for these women.
And Plaid Cymru are fully behind the WASPI campaigners because we can see that the women of Wales have been treated terribly unjustly by the British Government.
That’s why Plaid Cymru is absolutely committed to providing compensation to those women who have lost out from an ill communicated and ill thought through policy and will right the wrong served upon the women of Wales by Westminster.
If re-elected I will continue to stand up for the women of Wales and the injustice that has been served upon them by the regressive British government.