Demonstration in London sees women join forces to bring about change to state pensions

The Solent Waspi group protesting in London about the proposed pension changes 

Picture: Ellie Pilmoor
The Solent Waspi group protesting in London about the proposed pension changes Picture: Ellie Pilmoor
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WOMEN who feel they have been short-changed to the tune of thousands of pounds by the government over changes to their retirement age have warned: We aren’t going away.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) groups from across the country ​joined forces yesterday outside the Houses of Parliament.

Among the groups showing solidarity was the Solent Waspi which has members from Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport.

Around 15 of the group travelled to the capital to represent the 10,000 women in Portsmouth and the 85,400 in the county affected by the increase in state pension ages.

The worst affected could miss out on up to £46,000 of pension payments they had been expecting, due to the fact they will be forced to retire later than they planned.

Shelagh Simmons, joint area co-ordinator for Solent Waspi, said: ‘Some women’s retirement plans have been thrown into chaos by this.

The atmosphere and the sense of solidarity has been great.

Shelagh Simmons

‘So it is fantastic for us all to come together and be a part of this. It is all very fitting that it is National Women’s Day.

‘The atmosphere and the sense of solidarity has been great.’

As well as the march, the group also met Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond in parliament.

Dressed in purple sashes and holding banners with their logos, the women and their supporters spent the afternoon sharing their message through the demonstration.

They travelled up to show their support for the national aim which is to see transitional payments set up to help women affected by an increase in pension age.

And the national group is looking ahead. It wants to raise £100,000 to build a case of maladministration against the government and is in the early stages of working with a legal firm to see if it can take the action forward.

As previously reported by The News, women are unhappy about the age increase as they say the government did not notify them about the changes.

Around 2.5m women in England born in the 1950s saw their state pension age increase to 66 – but many were unaware and thought they would get payments from their early 60s.

For some women, it means they are having to live off little savings, cannot retire at the same time as their husbands and are being forced to carry on working.

During the afternoon, the crowd attracted members of the public and tourists walking past parliament who were keen to hear why they were there.

It gave them the chance to share their individual stories as well as raise awareness.

Chanting phrases like ‘we paid in, now you pay out’ and ‘we want our pensions now’ the group gathered a lot attention.

Jill Robertson, from Bognor, travelled up with the Solent Waspi members as it’s her nearest established group.

The 62-year-old has been affected by the increase and had to downsize her house because she did not have enough income.

She is looking for more women from the Bognor area affected so she can start a new branch.

Jill said: ‘There are so many people across the whole country affected and that is why we all had to come together and hold the protest.

‘Although I heard a little bit about the increase in 1995, that was 20 years before I was due to retire so I didn’t think much of it – it seemed like such a long was off.

‘It wasn’t until 2010 that I realised how much it would affect me.

‘Since then I have tried to save as much as I can but it’s not really enough and I won’t be getting a state pension for another three years.

‘It is an injustice and is unfair, something has to be done.’

Like Jill, the majority of women at the march had been affected by the changes.

Groups from Liverpool, Devon, the Highlands, Birmingham and Newcastle travelled to London along with friends, family and their husbands.

For the women who have older husbands, the increase has also had an impact on them. They can no longer retire together and for many, it has jeopardised retirement plans.

Waspi groups first started forming in 2015 when women decided it was time to make a stand.

Since then, the movement has grown and there are now 140 branches across the country. Solent Waspi formed last year and has about 130 members from across the south coast.

For more information or to contact Solent Waspi email the group at solentwaspi@gmail.com. For national information visit waspi.co.uk.

WHAT THE PROTESTS ARE ABOUT

IN 1995, the government made changes to the state pension ages for women born in the 1950s so a lot of them ​w​ould no longer get a pension when they turned 60.

For women born between April 6, 1950 and April 5, 1955 the pension age would depend on when within that time period they were born. The age ranged from 60 years and one month, to 64 years and 11 months.

​For those born after April 5, 1955 the pension age would be 65 – the same as men’s.

​The government said they would phase this in between 2010 and 2020 but women part of the Women Against State Pension Inequality say they did not contact people directly and tell them how it would affect them.

​Then, in 2011 the government increased the state pension again, by one year to 66 years old for women born after October 5, 1954 but before April 6, 1968.

This latest change was going to have the same implementation period as the 1995 act so women had less time to prepare for it​.

Many were not aware of the age increase from 1995 so when they were written to in 2011, they were shocked to hear they would not be receiving their pension.