Bridgwater woman says state pension changes mean she is only able to heat one room in her home

A Bridgwater woman says the cost of living crisis and not receiving her state pension when she expected to has left her close to needing to use a food bank.

Susan Clark is one of thousands of women born in the 1950s who saw their pension age rise from 60 to 66.

She says she was already living in just one room of her house during the winter before energy prices soared this year.

The government has won cases aimed at compensating them, but Susan says the decision has left her struggling to survive.

Like many this winter, Susan says she will struggle to heat more than one room in her house

She said: "I haven’t been to a food bank yet. I think it’s likely by the end of December I’ll be one of their customers but at the moment I can remain fairly self-sufficient."

When asked how she feels about the idea of going to a food bank she said: "Horrified. I’m horrified we need food banks for people but, yes, I’m horrified that it would be me."

  • Watch Joanne Welch talk to ITV News West Country

The founder of the 'Back To 60' campaign, Joanne Welch said: "One woman said to me today 'this is like living on death row and waiting for the reprieve hearing to see if we're going to actually get some help.

Ms Welch delivered the campaign's 'Judges Report' to 10 Downing Street this week. It was prepared by Hon Dr Jocelynne Scutt and highlights the impact of the changes on 1950s-born women.

"They (50s women) have paid their National Insurance, they've paid their taxes, they've worked all their lives. Women have had the handicap of maternity leave, of lower salaries - they can never make up that difference.

"We would like the pensions that we are contracted to receive at 60 - that's what we were told we would receive and that's what we deserve."

Joanne Welch (centre) alongside Hon Dr Jocelynne Scutt, who wrote the 'Judges Report' and Ian Byrne MP

A Department for Work & Pensions spokesperson 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.

"Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.

“We recognise that people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting millions of the most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments and providing all households with £400 towards energy costs.

"As part of our £37bn support package we are also allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn, while vulnerable families in England are being supported by the Government’s Household Support Fund – which was boosted by £500million - to help pay for essentials.”

However, Susan Clark says that's not enough and last winter, before energy prices soared, she could only afford to heat her lounge.

She said: "I slept in the armchair because this room was heated. It's a bit like going camping.

"This is how I try to look at it rather than getting desperately low about it. It's like, 'oh, I'm going to snuggle into my tent'.

Susan is determined to remain positive and upbeat, but losing out on six years of pension payments has left her angry, and she's counting down the days until she finally receives it.

She said: "The state pension itself would effectively double my income. I'd be able to go and visit friends. I'm looking forward to that. I might be able to plan for the future a little bit as well."