Waspi woman survives on £50 a week. ‘I’d have starved without food parcels and friends’
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More than 3.8 million women born in the 50s know what May has been going through. Too many also faced financial disaster after being caught out by moves to synchronise the State Pension age at 65 for both men and women, then increasing it again to 66.
Waspi women – which stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice – are now campaigning for compensation, having lost £50,000 in State Pension on average.
May Low from Burton upon Trent only found out two days before her 60th birthday that she would have to wait another six years before getting her pension.
That was despite working hard for 45 years, when it would normally take just 35 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions to be able to claim the maximum basic State Pension.
“I was a family support worker for social services doing emergency special needs fostering until ill-health put a stop to that,” she said.
May considers herself one of the lucky ones. Husband Peter was able to support her at first, but this depleted his own savings.
When Peter sadly passed away in October 2019, May felt the full devastating impact of her pensions injustice. “I was left with no money at all and had to apply for benefits.”
At that point, she was living on just £50 a week. That works out as a meagre £2,600 a year, roughly a tenth of the national average salary.
While support from friends and family was welcome, she found it embarrassing and humiliating to rely on handouts.
“My health was not good and failing by the day, yet the Government expected me to wait for my pension.”
Waspi women say they were not given sufficient warning of the change to the State Pension age, and in July won backing from the the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should have given more notice of moves to raise their State Pension age, accusing it of “maladministration”.
Campaigners are now pressing for compensation, and say it should reflect the financial and health struggles many women have faced.
May decided to campaign for Waspi, to support women from all over the country who faced similar challenges.
“I worked all my life and this is how the Government treats not just me but millions of other women.”
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May now gets the maximum Personal Independent Payment because of her disabilities, and lives on £131 a week – or £6,812 a year. “That’s just about manageable. Others have it worse,” she said.
She still has to rely on food parcels and friends, and released equity from her house to pay for essentials such as repairs, for mobility aids and disabled access.
The sooner Waspi women are compensated, the better, May said. “Some of us haven’t got a lot of time left.”
Some losses can never be recovered, though. “I regret the time the Government robbed me of, which I could have spent with Peter, my loving, supportive husband of 38 years.”
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