WASPI: ‘We have been treated unjustly’ says director
In part one of a two-part interview, Susan Walsh, 65, recalled her shock at discovering, at the age of 59, her state pension age was no longer 60. Instead, she would need to wait six years until she could begin getting the payment.
By that time, Susan – who started working at the age of 16 – had retired so she could care for her terminally ill husband.
The mother-of-one says she wasn’t notified of the changes in 1995, and didn’t have the time to read magazines in which it’s claimed advertisements were placed.
“I got one letter and that was in 2015, the January, when I was 60 in November, telling me about the 2011 change and saying that my age would now be 66 for my pension,” she says.
The discovery was “absolutely gutting” she says, explaining returning to work wasn’t possible at that time due to her husband’s deteriorating health.
Instead, the couple made the decision to sell their home in London, and relocate to Essex.
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Sadly, Susan’s husband passed away in 2017.
No longer receiving Carer’s Allowance or her late husband’s state pension and private pension, Susan was supported by the Widow’s Pension for one year, before having to live off her savings and her £1,200 per year private pension annuity.
“Since that time I’ve had to live off my savings and I’ve now got 47 weeks left,” she says, recalling how her Widow’s Pension stopped in 2018.
“I’m counting down the weeks until I’m 66 which is wishing your life away, which you shouldn’t be doing.
“But for the last year, I’ve had to release equity from my property because it’s the only way that I can survive.
“I can’t get a job, and I certainly can’t now with covid.”
She adds: “My savings have gone, and I’ve now got £11,000 to last me until November next year.
“That’s to cover anything that goes wrong with the house, my day to day living expenses.
“It’s just a nightmare really and it does play havoc with your health because you’re constantly thinking about it and you’re constantly wishing your life away. I’m thinking, I’m marking it off on the calendar – I’ve now got 47 weeks to go.”
When the Widow’s Pension finished for her in February 2018, Susan – who previously worked as an accountant – sought work, applying for a range of roles.
“I applied for about four or five jobs and I got no response from any of them. So that completely demoralised me as well,” she says.
“You’re in a catch-22 position now because if you apply for Universal Credit, then I’ve got to be seen spending 35 hours a week applying for jobs that, quite frankly don’t exist, and they certainly don’t exist for ladies in my age group.”
Other WASPI campaigners have said they have struggled to find work, and have instead been directed to retrain.
“That’s completely stupid isn’t it,” Susan says. “The problem is, people will not employ you because they know that you’re counting down the days until you get your state pension.
“They know a lot of women have health problems. I do at this age – we’re not as young as we were.
“In my opinion now, they should pay our state pension, and any jobs that are now fresh, be for the younger generation because otherwise they’re going to grow up with no hope.
“Retraining and apprenticeships is quite frankly insulting.”
The coronavirus pandemic has meant this year has been tough for Susan, who lives on her own.
“I had to shield because I’m diabetic,” she says. “I found the first lockdown, and I think this is true of many people, I found the first lockdown easier because we were in the spring/summer.
“You could go out for walks, you could go into your garden, you could do things that this time of year you just can’t do.
“This time of the year, I’m finding quite difficult, I must say.”
She believes that if she had her state pension, the income may have allowed her a little bit more freedom during the lockdown easements seen earlier this year.
“Along with the [older person’s free] bus pass, we get no Winter Fuel Allowance and I get no bus pass in Essex,” she says.
“So it’s a triple-whammy in every way. If we had had a bus pass, perhaps I could have got out a bit on the bus when we were allowed to.”
As a household, they used to receive help with covering the heating costs that come in the wintertime, but it’s something she can no longer get.
“When my husband was alive, we did get it,” she explains. “Because he was state pension age, but once he died, that all went with him.
“It is quite worrying, having to try and keep warm,” Susan adds. “You do sometimes think, ‘Do you heat the place or do you eat?’ It’s as simple as that.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided 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 and this has been clearly communicated.
“Raising state pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”
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