OPINION: Women face becoming victims of 'grave injustice' over changes to retirement age

Barbara Keeley MP (third from the left) joins the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign group. Credit: WASPI / Barbara Keeley MP

Written by Barbara Keeley MP (Labour, Worsley and Eccles South)

Imagine you are a woman aged 57 and a half, looking forward to retiring in two and a half years time.

You suddenly get a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions saying that your retirement age for the State Pension is not 60 years it is 66. So, you now have eight and a half years more to work and a very short time left to change your plans or to save.

That is the worst example of the grave injustice that will affect hundreds of thousands of women in the North West in coming months and years. In future, both men and women will retire at the same age. By 2018, this age will be 65 and by 2020 it will be 66.

But there are two problems with the way these changes are happening.

The changes were started under John Major’s Government in 1995. But the women (and men) affected were not notified of the changes. Then, in 2011, the Conservative-led Coalition decided to accelerate the pace of the changes, breaking a promise they had made in their coalition agreement in May 2010.

Letters about the state pension age changes were only sent out in 2012 and 2013, and many of the women affected did not receive one. As 1950s-born women started to be hit by these changes and suffered hardship, many started to contact their MPs.

I have heard from women who now have no job, no pension and very little money to live on.

Women who have worked and made contributions to their pension for over 40 years and who are now forced to go to the JobCentre or to join the Work Programme.

Many women in their 60s who have worked all their lives and brought up children have health problems which stop them working. Many women also give up work early so that they can care for family members, such as a parent with dementia.

A campaign group called Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI)is campaigning on these issues for 1950s-born women. The group has started an e-petition, calling on the Government to make fair transitional arrangements for the women affected by this injustice.

I led a debate on this in Westminster on December 2nd and I co-sponsored a second debate on January 7th, with MPs from 6 different political parties. Our motion for that debate called on the Government to bring in immediately transitional arrangements for those women negatively affected by the acceleration of the increases in the State Pension Age.

We won the vote on this by 158-0 but the Government is showing no signs of helping the women affected. I will keep fighting to help all the women born in the 1950s who are unjustly being denied a state pension that they have worked for all their lives.

Barbara Keeley MP