The Women Against State Pension Injustice (WASPI) Silent Rally highlighted the plight of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who were not given enough notice that they would have to wait years longer for their State Pension. Campaigners paid tribute to more than 20,000 women who die every year before reaching their new State retirement age.
Hundreds of Waspi women gathered by the statue of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, on Monday 4 October.
In July, the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman ruled that the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) should have given more notice of moves to raise their retirement age, accusing it of “maladministration”.
Rally organiser Jane Morwood from Chorley Waspi said campaigners want to remind the Government that this ruling cannot be ignored.
“For many women the lack of proper notice that their State Pension age had changed was catastrophic.
“Some had to sell their homes, others continued working whilst physically or mentally challenged or had to break their promises to look after grandchildren or elderly relatives,” she said
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The Daily Express has repeatedly publicised the plight of Waspi women who could not work to the new State Pension age of 66 due to ill health or workplace ageism, and have been plunged into poverty instead.
Morwood said: “We are calling on the Government to provide fair and fast compensation for the injustice these women have suffered.”
At midday, campaigners held a Remembrance Ceremony including a moment of silence for the women have died without receiving a penny in State Pension, despite making decades of qualifying National Insurance contributions.
Waspi members placed a coffin at the foot of the statue, and laid purple flowers.
They also held up names and photographs of loved ones who passed away before reaching their new State Pension age.
Mistress of Ceremonies Elizabeth Stanley from the Waspi Steering Group said 1950s women will get justice in the end.
“The time has come to say ‘Let’s not dwell on the wrongs of the past. Do something now to put it right.’
“We have waited and waited, many of us in desperate straits. The spirit of the time is with us. Our message to MPs is ‘You’re the people who can put these wrongs right. It’s time for you to bring us a solution’,” she said.
Linda Wyatt of Modern Day Suffragettes said Waspi women have been vindicated by the ombudsman’s ruling. “Sadly any compensation will come too late for thousands of women who have died before reaching their new state pension age.
“Every day sixty women aged from 60 to 66 die without their State Pension. This is over 21,000 a year in England and Wales alone. This is a shocking statistic. They deserved better.”
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Andrew Gwynne MP and Peter Aldous MP, Labour and Conservative co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Pension Inequality, also spoke at the event.
Gwynne said he was “overjoyed” at the ombudsman’s finding and said women faced “real injustice, real hardship and every one of you had to make difficult choices”.
Aldous said: “We’re now in the last stage of a very long journey towards justice for WASPI women. I will work flat out to get you a fair outcome.”
The DWP responded that 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 said 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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