Patricia Gibson MP writes on the continued plight of the WASPI women...

Last week I was honoured to be presented with a WASPI Hero award from Ayrshire WASPI for supporting their cause over many years.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) has campaigned tirelessly against how the state pension age for men and women was equalised. This left women born on or after April 6, 1950 to April 5, 1960 with a later retirement age for which they received little or no notice.

Across the UK, 3.8 million women were impacted; their retirement plans in tatters, lives upended and tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket as they were forced to wait up to six additional years for their pension.

One in four struggle to pay bills and one third are in debt, with single women the worst affected. 

After a lifetime working, lower pay than male counterparts and raising families, WASPI were robbed of receiving their state pension at 60.  

Pensioners reliant on the state pension as their main income, including thousands in North Ayrshire and Arran, are more likely to have had a working life of low pay, endure health challenges in retirement and have a shorter life expectancy. Many simply cannot afford to retire early, even when health problems occur.

Raising the retirement age further will therefore have a disproportionate effect on poorer older people who enjoy fewer retirement years.

The UK already has one of Europe’s lowest state pensions, but to add insult to injury, UK Government Ministers shamefully advised millions of women in their 60s whose pension age was raised to take up apprenticeships as a route to re-employment.

I’ve consistently raised this injustice at Westminster as the only MP to speak in every single WASPI debate and presented the UK’s third most supported constituency petition, which reflects the strength of local feeling on this important issue.

The WASPI case has been referred to the Parliamentary Health Services Ombudsman who previously found the Department of Work and Pensions guilty of maladministration for failing to sufficiently inform the women about the state pension age increase. The Ombudsman must complete this investigation quickly and fairly.

This lengthy process has seen more impacted women dying before receiving justice. Research conducted by the i newspaper, estimated that every hour, four such women die. Others are sliding deeper into ill health and financial distress.

The ongoing WASPI campaign has been conducted with great dignity, despite UK Ministers’ dismissive responses, and their mantras of “Not Going Away” and “We Paid In, You Pay Out” resonate with all who support their cause.

The attack on WASPI is ultimately an attack on all state pensions. Indeed, I raised the scandal of UK Government Ministers trying to sneakily raise the state pension age further to 68, despite the recent fall in life expectancy. Such changes would affect everyone aged 54 and older.  The plans have now been delayed until after the next general election.

I’m proud to back WASPI’s pension justice campaign. They don’t just fight for their own state pension but for all pensioners, and deserve our support.