Waspi women say they were 'sold down the river' in pension age change as hundreds protest nationwide

Frances Neil, WASPI woman and former headteacher in Essex.  
Credit: ITV News Anglia
Former teacher Frances Neil was among the generation of women who found out they would have to work for years longer than they expected. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A former headteacher said her generation was "sold down the river" when their pension ages were pushed back without their knowledge, as hundreds of women across the country joined in a national demonstration.

Frances Neil, who worked at St Mary's Prittlewell Primary School in Southend-on-Sea, had made plans to retire aged 60, but before she reached that age she found out that the pension age was being pushed back to 65.

She said: "I was floored by it, really, when I found out. Completely and utterly shocked.

"I'd been thinking about all the wonderful things that I'd do with that time when I retired - going to the library, reading, pottering in the garden, enjoying my time with my family and looking after my grandchildren but then I had to continue working, and working full-time."

Ms Neil joined The Women Against State Pension Injustice (WASPI) campaign, which led the charge for those born in the 1950s to receive fair compensation.

She joined hundreds of other women to protest outside Southend City Hall on International Women's Day on Wednesday.

There are tens of thousands of WASPI women across Essex, and 3.6 million across the country.

The WASPI campaigners said that research has found that nearly one in three WASPI women across the country have struggled to pay energy bills this winter, with 27% falling into debt.

Ms Neil said she only found out that she would not be able to retire at 60 when a colleague heard about it on a training course with the local authority.

"I had to re-evaluate all my plans. Put things on hold, delay things and suddenly I began to feel really cross and angry," she told ITV News Anglia.

"I felt that we had been sold down the river. We hadn't been told, we hadn't been informed properly.

"I had members of staff who were working with me going through the same thing and we all felt that we hadn't been told properly, that there hadn't been enough information.

"Nobody had received information from the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions]."

The WASPI campaigners asked the DWP and later, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to investigate the way they had been treated.

The Ombudsman is not a court but can recommend compensation where maladministration causes injustice.

His initial investigation report, published in 2021, found clear maladministration in the communication of pensions law changes and complaint handling but failed to find that this led to financial loss and lost opportunities.

The WASPI women argue this means hundreds of thousands of women may miss out on the compensation they feel they are owed and so have announced their intention to seek a High Court Judicial Review against the Ombudsman.

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