Senedd stings UK Government over WASPI women

(Title Image: Mark Lewis via Wales Online)

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Recognises the continuing women against state pension inequality (“WASPI”) campaign.
  • Calls on the UK Government to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for women born on or after 6 April 1951, who have borne the burden of the increase to the state pension age with lack of appropriate notification.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to make representations to the UK Government in support of the WASPI campaign.
  • Calls on the Counsel General to consider what action the Welsh Government could take in relation to expected litigation against the Department for Work and Pensions for the mishandling of raising the state pension age for women born in the 1950s.

Plunged into serious poverty

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) wasn’t opposed to an equal pension age (previously women retired aged 60 and men 65), but the manner by which this change – introduced in 1995 – has been handled has plunged many women into serious poverty.

The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition decided to accelerate the equalisation of the state pension in 2011 and many of the women affected were only given a year’s notice of a six-year delay to their state pension age.

“Some of those women have had to carry on working in roles that they are no longer physically strong enough to undertake safely – for example, caring – and I have seen doctors’ letters to women advising them not to carry on….when they have no choice. Some have been forced to rely solely on partners for support….but in some cases that leaves women vulnerable to financial abuse and having to stay in abusive relationships….Many of them are living on their limited savings, and many of those savings are now gone. All are poorer than they expected to be after a lifetime of work, paid or unpaid.”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) said the rules were changes without consideration of the fact women born in the 1950s often spent the earlier parts of their working lives without access to equal pay and fair access to pension funds. The UK Government has ignored WASPIs and it was part of a catalogue of bad decisions and poor communication.

Increased longevity

Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said the changes introduced in 1995 and later years were a result of increased lifespans and to prevent the state pension system becoming unaffordable.

“Back in 1926, when the state pension age was first set, there were nine people of working age for every pensioner. The ratio is now 3:1 and is set to fall closer to 2:1 by the latter half of the twenty-first century…..The number of people receiving a state pension is expected to grow by one third over the next 25 years and, by 2034, there will be more than twice as many people over 100 as there are now.”
– Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood

Undoing the 2011 changes would cost £30billion and returning the retirement age of women to 60 would cost £77billion by 2021.

David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) listened to Mark Isherwood’s speech and not once did he hear an apology to the WASPI women. It was about time the Conservatives took responsibility for their actions.

“Some are able to have occupational pensions but….they came from an age where they weren’t entitled to occupational pensions; they weren’t included in that. Some of them didn’t start work until later in life, because of the tradition in those days where they started looking after the family and then came into work later on, sometimes part-time and built them up.”
– David Rees AM

Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) said when the first pensions were introduced it was at age 70 and if you didn’t have good character you were still expected to work; this policy was akin to returning to Victorian times.

Caroline Jones AM (Ind, South Wales West) – whose contribution was originally attributed in the transcript to Carwyn Jones, suggesting the beard wasn’t the only thing he changed since December – said she has herself fallen into the WASPI trap.

“I, like thousands of my compatriots, was not personally notified of the changes. I received no letter, I received no explanation, and no-one told me my retirement plans would have to change. But unlike many other women in this situation, I am fortunate, I am still in employment and I am not facing destitution. Sadly, many women have been badly affected by these changes, and I have read of at least one women who took her own life as a result of the financial black hole she found herself in.”
– Caroline Jones AM

Poor and untimely communication

While pension policy was non-devolved, Deputy Minister without portfolio, Jane Hutt (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan), said the Welsh Government has made representations to London on this, placing the blame squarely on “poor and untimely communications”. The Welsh Government would support the motion.

She paid tribute to WASPI campaigners across Wales who’ve got their message out in a creative way. The Welsh Government will closely monitor a judicial review in the High Court, due to take place this June.


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