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Why do the WASPI women deserve pension justice?

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign has been fighting for the rights of women in the UK who have been affected by changes made to the State Pension age.

The campaign has been running since 2015 and has been incredibly successful in raising awareness, but who are the WASPI women and why do they deserve pension justice?

UK Government Pension Reforms

The changes made by the British Government to the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s have been controversial.

The Pensions Act 1995 made changes in law which would increase the State Pension age for women from 60 to 65, in order to equalise it with that of a man.

Years later, the Pensions Act 2011 accelerated this increase so that it would happen sooner, and bring forward an additional increase to 66.

Many women were not properly informed about these changes by the UK Government and therefore had insufficient time to plan for their retirement.

The WASPI Campaign

The WASPI campaign was formed in 2015 by a group of women affected by the State Pension age changes.

The key objectives of the campaign include the call for fair and fast compensation for all women affected by the lack of notice to reflect their financial losses, the sustained damage to their mental health and well-being, and the additional impacts.

The campaign has organised many protests and demonstrations to raise awareness of the issue - including one to mark International Womens' Day today outside Parliament, which I spoke at in support. I also hosted a reception in Parliament afterwards so that Scottish WASPI women could meet with Scottish MPs to discuss the campaign.

The impact on Women

The State Pension age changes have had a significant impact on affected women, including financial hardship and health issues.

Many of the women affected have faced other roadblocks which have stopped them from being able to prepare adequately for retirement, which was recently explained well on an episode of Steph's Packed Lunch on Channel 4.

It is estimated that 3.8 million women have been affected by the changes, with some losing up to £47,000 in income.

The lack of transitional arrangements has made it difficult for affected women to plan for their retirement, causing stress and anxiety.

UK Government failure to act

The WASPI Campaign has been around for longer than I have been a Member of Parliament - a damning indictment of successive British Governments and their refusal to put right a serious wrong.

I've lost count of the number of Government ministers I've raised the WASPI issue with, only for them to brush it off and continue to ignore it - just like this clip from 2019 demonstrates.

To this day, women born in the 1950s are still adversely hit by the Tories' failure to address the injustice of the acceleration of the increase to the State Pension age.

The UK Government has repeatedly rejected the call for fairer transitional arrangements, stating that it would cost too much. As we have seen during the pandemic though, the money can always be found when there is political will to do so.

In 2016, the SNP produced an independently researched report which presented five options to the UK Government that would have allowed them to reverse their mistakes and deliver dignity in retirement for the WASPI women. Our research found that this could be done at a fraction of the cost the UK Government has been perpetuating.

The UK Government decided to ignore that research and instead continue the gross injustice served to the WASPI women, plunging many of them into poverty instead.

The Ombudsman

The WASPI campaign continues to fight for the rights of women affected by the State Pension age changes.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has been looking at a number of test cases as part of its three stage review.

The Stage 1 report, published in 2021, exposed multiple failings and instances of maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions over a prolonged period of time. Specifically, the Ombudsman found that the DWP's decision making was flawed following research that reported in 2004.

That research called for 'appropriately targeted' information dissemination to women who were affected by changes to the State Pension Age. The DWP failed to 'get it right' or to 'seek continuous improvement', and the Ombudsman has determined that was maladministration.

Similarly, the DWP once again failed to take action following research which reported in 2006, leading to another finding of maladministration.

The Ombudsman has been damning of the DWP's handling of communications relating to State Pension age increases, effectively finding that Ministers continued to take the same action despite knowing it wasn't working and that women were being left in the dark about their retirement.

The Ombusdman recently completed the Stage 2 report, which the WASPI campaign is planning to take to judicial review. They feel that the Ombudsman has failed to recognise how the maladministration within the DWP has caused several injustices, and fear that the Stage 3 report will result in a recommendation of a lower level of compensation than they deserve.

The WASPI women deserve pension justice

1950s-born women have been robbed of the retirement they deserve and their fight for justice has been going on for far too long.

The cruelty and negligence of the British Government has meant that women have had to keep on fighting and although their tenacity is enviable, they should not have been put through this to get what they are entitled to.

The Conservatives have had enough time and enough chances to put this right, yet have failed by every measure to step up and do the right thing.

The current leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, signed the WASPI pledge back in 2017 yet swiftly abandoned the WASPI women once elected.

None of the 1950s-born women deserve to have been treated with such utter contempt and disdain.

Although it's regrettable that many years later we're still pursuing justice, for so long as it takes, the WASPI women will have the continued support of myself and of the SNP.