Preston WASPI mum cannot afford energy bills after losing £50k in state pension age hike

Cathy Lee had to sell her home to be able to keep paying her bills Credit: MEN Media

A Preston mum says she was forced to take out credit and live on ‘next to nothing’ after her state pension age was hiked up at short notice.

Cathy Lee, 68, of Cottam says she believed she would be able to retire at the age of 60.

She was shocked to discover a couple of years before that she would have to wait until the age of 65.

She said: “It was too late to do anything about it when I found out. Nobody told me that they were raising the state pension age for women - I had never had a letter or anything.

Credit: PA Media

"I just found out through reading the paper. I don’t even know when the change in the law was officially announced.”

“I am a WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) woman who definitely lost out on five years of pension.

She added: “I would have lost five years of whatever pension I would have got. I would have said I have lost in the region of £50,000.

"I was under the impression I could get my pension at 60 only to find out that I had to wait till I was 65 and 7 months before I could draw it."

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The former nurse, whose beloved husband died in 2008, was forced to give up work after she broke her leg in three places in 2009 and suffered a brain haemorrhage the following year.

Forced to rely on Employment and Support Allowance and savings (ESA), she found her problems were compounded by further ill health issues, including scoliosis. She is now classed as disabled.

Cathy said: “Since my husband died I have had one illness after another culminating in me now being classed as disabled. "

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Forced to use up savings from the age of 60, the only way she could survive when they ran out was by using credit cards, with the result being that she’s still paying a large credit card debt off to this day.

She now gets a small occupational pension on top of her state pension, as well as her late husband’s pension, on which she is forced to pay tax - but is having to fork out to pay off the credit card bills she took out to survive before the age of 65.

“We sold my house and I moved to a smaller apartment because I could no longer afford to keep the house going - it was beautiful.

"I had about £27, 000 in savings, and it all went on survival.

“This is how it’s going to be now, because it’s heating or eating, and it’s no joke because it’s actually true.

“Now, because of the bills going up the way they are, it’s so much of a struggle, because they keep wanting to put my gas and electricity up and I’ve told them I can’t afford to pay any more."

Credit: PA Images

The Department for Work and Pensions said the Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.

The DWP says it recognises the pressures pensioners were facing and all pensioner households would receive £300 to help them cover the cost of energy this winter those on Pension Credit getting a further £650 cost of living payment.

This is in addition to the £150 council tax rebate and £400 discount on their energy bills.