‘I was crying with pain’ – why Waspi women want compensation after losing £50,000 each
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Lisa is just one of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who had to wait six years longer than expected to claim their State Pension, after the retirement age for women was increased from 60 to 65, then to 66. Waspi stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice, a campaign group that is battling to win compensation for lost pension payments that average £50,000 each.
After leaving school at 15, Lisa spent 31 years working gruelling shifts in a local jeans factory, which left her with severe degenerative discs in her back and rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and neck.
When the factory closed she worked in a fruit and vegetable store and then a supermarket, but her condition made it a struggle.
“I remember crying with the pain on my way home from work,” said Lisa, who lives near Llandysul in Carmarthenshire.
Adding to her burden, she also had to look after her elderly parents five miles away, after her father had a stroke.
At 65, Lisa was finally unable to work any longer, and went to the job centre to claim benefits, which she found “humiliating”. “After working all my life, to register as unemployed at 65 was awful.”
Husband John, a self-employed electrician, had to work longer hours despite his own ill-health, but the bills mounted up despite careful budgeting.
Lisa, now 67, said: “All this pain and heartache and would have been avoided if I’d been able to get my State Pension at age 60, as I was promised when I started my working life all those years ago.”
Lisa and John finally have their State Pensions, which has eased their hardship. “We can’t afford holidays, but at least we know where our next payment is coming from. It’s been a long time coming.”
Waspi 2018 chair Hilary Simpson said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to give women sufficient warning.
In July, their campaign won the backing of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which said the DWP should have given more notice of moves to raise the State Pension age, accusing it of “maladministration”.
The Ombudsman has no power to refund lost pensions or pay damages, but it can recommend the Government compensates Waspi women.
Campaigners are now pressing for compensation, and say it should reflect the financial and health struggles many have faced.
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The final decision rests with MPs and Waspi women hope to win cross-party support for their case.
Lisa hopes their hard-fought campaign will finally succeed. “A compensation payment could really improve our quality of life. It wouldn’t make up for everything we’ve been through but it would certainly be a help,” she said.
The DWP said the Government decided to equalise the State Pension age for men and women more than 25 years ago, as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
It insisted that it had been supported by both the High Court and Court of Appeal, which found it acted entirely lawfully and did not discriminate on any grounds.
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