‘Pull your fingers out!’ WASPI woman left with £34 a month as state pension delays persist
People need to check their pensions are correct says Steve Webb
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State pension age rules were updated in the mid-1990s as the Government introduced plans to equalise retirement ages among men and women. This raised the state pension age for women born in the 1950s from 60 to 65 – and eventually 66. Many affected women argued they were not given enough warning on these changes and as such, campaign groups including Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) emerged to challenge the Government on behalf of struggling female retirees. Among them is Jane McDonald, a woman who has had to completely upend her plans.
Ms McDonald, speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, explained how the state pension age changes made her difficult living situations even worse. She found out about the state pension age changes three years ahead of her planned retirement date.
In May, Ms McDonald was informed by the DWP she could put in a claim for her state pension but as she attempted to do so, she faced another problem.
Unfortunately, even as Ms McDonald became eligible for her state pension, further issues delayed the payments. In recent months, the DWP confirmed the pandemic and staffing issues caused backlogs in payments for thousands. While the Government assures it is contacting retirees to fix the issue, Ms McDonald’s case has yet to be resolved.
Two months after submitting her claim, Ms McDonald had yet to receive any payments, which in turn was holding up Housing Benefit and Pension Credit claims she was hoping to make.
Ms McDonald said she was told her claim was “going through the process” and following a call made on August 16, her case was flagged for a response to be issued within 48 hours.
However, Ms McDonald confirmed she is still “waiting for a phone call or something. I’ve had nothing, not even a letter”.
“I was on Universal Credit up until my [66th] birthday. I [was told I] would no longer be able to claim Universal Credit because I would be getting my state pension. Well I thought, ‘That’s not true now is it.'”
Ms McDonald went on to say that as her Universal Credit payments stopped, all she had “coming in” was a small pension worth about £34 a month along with PIP payments which are used to cover disability costs.
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Ms McDonald explained she had “a lot of pain” due to her condition(s) and as such, she does not have huge plans for her retirement years. She simply wants to “chill” and enjoy time with her puppy who “is my world at the moment”.
However, even these simple plans are being held up and when asked if there’s any specific areas she’d like clarity on, Ms McDonald responded with an all encompassing question: “Do you know when our pensions are coming?”
While Ms McDonald has faced a difficult time in accessing her state pension, she is still being proactive. Following advice from Debbie de Spon, the Communications Director at WASPI, Ms McDonald contacted her local MP for help who promised she would “chase up” her pension.
In terms of pushing Ministers for a response, Ms McDonald was asked if she had any messages or comments for the DWP, Thérèse Coffey or the wider Government itself on these state pension issues.
Ms McDonald said: “Just pull your fingers out, because I just don’t know where my money’s going to come from, and that’s the worrying thing.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We are sorry that some new State Pension customers have faced delays receiving payment. All those affected have been identified and we have deployed extra resources to process these as a priority. Any claims made today should not be subject to delay.”
In July, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found a number of “failings” in how the DWP communicated the state pension age changes to affected women. It explained actions taken by the Government from 2005 onwards were not considered good enough and its report argued the DWP “failed to make reasonable decisions”.
As the PHSO results were released, the WASPI campaign welcomed the findings as vindication of its efforts. Responding, WASPI urged the Government to “compensate all women affected rather than making them wait even longer while the PHSO completes further rounds of its investigation”.
Ms De Spon and Angela Madden, WASPI’s Chair, also issued a joint statement in response to the PHSO report. They said: “Today’s findings reinforce what we, unfortunately, knew all along; that the DWP failed to adequately inform 3.8 million 1950s born women that their state pension age would be increasing. The DWP’s own research showed that women were not sufficiently aware of the changes, yet they failed to act.
“This inaction had devastating and life-altering impacts on women across the country. These women have been waiting for many years for compensation.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality. Raising the state pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”
It should be noted both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive Governments dating back to 1995, finding it acted lawfully and did not discriminate on any grounds.
More changes are coming
Further changes to the state pension age are coming, which will impact both men and women over the coming decades. Currently, under the new state pension rules, most people will reach their state pension age at 66.
However, the Government has plans to increase this to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Beyond this, it will rise to 68 by 2046 and possibly move into the 70s in the coming decades.
While many retirees and future pensioners may be unhappy with the increases, the Government has stressed it will not be stopping or reversing their schedule. In recent months, a Commons petition signed by more than 70,000 people was submitted to the Government calling for an immediate reduction of the state pension age to 60.
Despite the efforts, the DWP rejected the calls, explaining lowering the state pension age to 60 would place an unaffordable and unfair burden on taxpayers. It also stated the reduction would make state pensions unsustainable in the long term.
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