East Dunbartonshire women urged to join rally against state pension inequality

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Members of the East Dunbartonshire Women Against State Pension Inequality Group (WASPI) are joining a procession and rally at George Square in Glasgow tomorrow (Friday, May 26).

More than 4,700 women have been affected by the changes in the local area.

At the rally, which begins at 11.30am, they will ask their General Election candidates to pledge to support WASPI women in their constituency.

As East Dunbartonshire’s MP for the past two years, before Theresa May called the snap election, the SNP’s candidate John Nicolson presented a petition at Westminster for the local WASPI group and described the decision by the Tories to give women no notice about retirement age change as “scandalous”.

Strathkelvin and Bearsden SNP MSP Rona Mackay has also demonstrated her support for the group.

There is expected to be speakers from the SNP, Labour and Green Parties. Councillors will also be invited.

It is hoped as many local people as possible will attend, particularly those affected by the changes.

What is WASPI?

••WASPI stands for Women Against State Pension Inequality.

••We are a campaign group campaign group that was started in 2015 by five ordinary women. We now have over 64,000 supporters and 140 local groups across the UK. The number of our supporters is growing by over 1,000 each week.

••We represent almost 3.5 million women born in the 1950s who have been negatively impacted by the lack of notification of the increases in their State Pension age.

What is WASPI calling for?

••We want fairness for all WASPI women.

••Ultimately, this means a bridging pension to provide an income until State Pension Age - not means tested - and compensation for those who have already reached their SPA.

What is the problem?

••This is about the financial hardship being suffered by WASPI women, and about the mismanagement of the changes by the Government.

••Successive Governments have failed to adequately inform WASPI women about the changes to the State Pension age, leaving some women with less than a year to prepare for a six-year change. No communication was sent at all until 14 years after the 1995 Act.

••People need time to prepare for any change in the State Pension age and to plan for the loss of income –this is the crux of our campaign.

What has the impact been?

••Many women are suffering huge financial difficulties because of the changes implemented in the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts. Some will lose up to £45,000.

••WASPI women have had no time to put in place alternative financial arrangements to see them through to the new state retirement age, which in some cases is now 66.

••Many women affected have no other source of income. Until the 1990s, many women weren’t allowed to join company pension schemes, and many also left their jobs early to take on caring responsibilities in the expectation they would receive a State Pension at 60.

What is WASPI campaigning for in the General Election?

••There are 3.5 million women in the UK who have been affected by the lack of notification of increases in their State Pension age. Our votes could significantly impact the election result.

••We want to ensure that all parties recognise the importance of 3.5 million women’s votes, from the demographic group most likely to vote.

••In many constituencies our numbers could sway who wins the seat.

••We are calling on all political parties to make a commitment to WASPI women in their election manifestos, and all parliamentary candidates to pledge their support to the WASPI campaign and commit to working to find a solution for WASPI women, should they be elected.

What have you done so far in your general election campaign?

••We are making our voice heard in constituencies across the country, where WASPI women are campaigning for more recognition of the financial hardship that they are suffering.

••We have written to all political parties calling on them to make a clear commitment to helping WASPI women in their general election manifestos.

••Our members and supporters across the country are working to secure the support of their local parliamentary candidates for finding a solution for WASPI women, should they be elected.

••We are delighted at the level of support that we have received. So far, [insert number as appropriate] MPs and candidates have signed our WASPI pledge.

What do you think about the [Labour Party/SNP/etc.] commitment to WASPI women?

••We are pleased that [insert as appropriate] is supportive of our campaign. We welcome their recognition of the importance of WASPI and the hardship that women across the country are facing. Their manifesto pledge is a good first step to securing a fair resolution for all WASPI women

••We recognise that there may still be many small steps along the way to achieving fair transitional State Pension arrangements for all women affected.

••We are keen to work with all political parties to ensure that our aim is achieved.

Didn’t the Government already offer you transitional arrangements?

No, what they refer to as ‘transitional arrangements’ was simply an amendment to the 2011 Act before it was passed. It

••was amended so that the maximum increase was 18 months and the government say this cost £1.1 million.

The WASPI campaign has been around for a while. Why is it still going?

••The WASPI campaign is gaining strongly in momentum as more women reach the age when they should have been retiring, only to realise that they will not receive their pension when they expected to and they must continue to work, or find alternative ways to fund their retirement. Our membership is growing every day. We have over 64,000 supporters and 140 local groups across the UK.

••Yet still the Government is not listening, and something needs to be done. Even though our generation of women led the way in the fight for equal rights for women, too often we are invisible when it comes to Government policy. Women’s voices, particularly older women’s voices, need to be heard. This general election is a chance to make sure that that happens.

Shouldn’t the Government prioritise the women who were the worst affected?

••We represent all women born in the 1950s affected by the changes. Of course, some women will suffer more than others, but this is a matter of principle.

••Successive governments failed to inform women about the changes, when they should have had at least 14 years’ notice to plan for their retirement.

••This is unacceptable and it needs to be put right. Our campaign is about fairness.

Aren’t WASPI women still much better off than many younger people?

••This is not just about the money. This is about the fundamental trust between the Government and ordinary people.

••The lack of communication from Government to the women affected following the 1995 Pension Act broke the trust that existed for generations.

••Our members need compensation to adequately survive their retirement, but this is about re-establishing trust and ensuring future generations, including today’s young people, do not suffer in the same way.

••Many WASPI women gave up their jobs to care for elderly or sick relatives, and now find themselves back in a job market where there are very few opportunities for older women and forced into claiming benefits with all the lack of security that entails.