THOUSANDS of Yorkshire women are facing financial hardship because the Government has failed to offer fair transitional arrangements for changes to the state pension age, according to a campaigning group.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI)- which has six groups in Yorkshire - claims that women born in the 1950s were not given sufficient notice of Government plans to equalise the state pension age between women and men. As a result, around 3.5m women around the UK did not have enough time to change their pension plans, WASPI argues.
WASPI, which has more than 140 local groups around the UK, has complained to the Department of Work and Pensions, claiming the department mishandled the implementation of changes to the State Pension Age.
Angela Madden, a director of the WASPI campaign, said: “Many women born in the 1950s started work at 15 years old, and have worked for more than 40 years paying into the National Insurance fund expecting to retire at 60.”
Ms Madden said that the 1995 Act set out the equalise the state pension age for women and men, so women’s pension age was set to rise to 65 by 2020.
She added: “The 2011 Act brought this rise forward to 2018, and raised both men and women’s pension age to 66.
“Unfortunately, no-one thought to tell us,’’ she added. “Some women received letters only two years before their expected retirement date informing them that their state pension age was up to six years later. Some women still haven’t been informed.”
According to Ms Madden, six years of “lost” pension adds up to an income loss of at least £36,000.
She added: “We can’t make that up given only two years’ notice. We saved all our working lives so that we could have a few treats in retirement – those savings are now being used to plug this massive income gap.
“We believe in equality and are not asking the Government to reverse the changes to state pension age.
“We are asking for fair transitional arrangements for all women affected. One cohort of women should not have to suffer such a major change. Yes, changes need to be made – but not all at once, and definitely not in secret.”
Jane Cowley, the director of the WASPI campaign, said; “We want the Government to acknowledge that 1950s women are facing real financial problems caused by the lack of notice of the changes to their State Pension Age and then to work directly with us to seek a solution.
“The Government needs now to move away from its entrenched insistence that they have already offered transitional arrangements - they haven’t - and to acknowledge that women have had up to six years added to their State Pension Age, not the 18 months that Government Ministers have previously claimed.
“Our preferred solution is a bridging pension to take women from their old State Pension Age to the new one, and we are keen to work directly with the Government on how this could be achieved.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The decision to equalise the State Pension age between men and women was made over 20 years ago and achieves a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
“There are no plans to change the transitional arrangements already in place. Women retiring today can still expect to receive the State Pension for 26 years on average – several years longer than men.”
The WASPI campaign supports the principle of equalisation of the state pension age but does not agree with the “unfair” way the changes were implemented, said Jane Cowley, the director of WASPI.
She added: “The first increase in women’s state pension age was introduced by the Pensions Act 1995. The Act legislated for women’s state pension age to rise to 65 slowly between April 2010 and April 2020.
“Then, in 2011 the coalition Government announced that the timetable would be speeded up, with women’s state pension age rising to 65 by November 2018. Men and women’s pension age would then rise together to reach 66 by April 5 2020.”