Picture: Waspi/inews

Ian Blackford: The Government has utterly failed the Waspi women – now it has a chance to undo the damage

The Chancellor must look again at what options are available and bring forward the necessary funding in the Budget to provide proper support.

Many women in the UK born in the 1950s have been hit by the UK Government’s utter mismanagement over the last two decades of the equalisation of the state pension age.

The Pensions Act 1995 legislated for the State Pension Age to rise from 60 to 65 over the period between April 2010 to 2020, a timetable then accelerated by the Pensions Act 2011. However, the women affected by these changes – whose state pension age has been increased – were not properly notified of the changes, which has left many suffering financial hardship due to having to wait longer to retire.

While we in the SNP support the principle of equalisation, there is no doubt that there was a complete failure of communication by previous UK Governments. This was the conclusion of a DWP Committee report published in 2016, which said ‘more could and should have been done’ to communicate the impact of these changes to the women affected. For example, with the 1995 Act changes starting in 2010, the UK Government only began writing to women affected from 2009 onwards – an appalling abdication of responsibility showing absolutely apathy towards to the impact these changes would have.

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Women are being affected by this now, and the impact is even more stark given that inflation is sky high due the Tories’ total disarray over Brexit. We know from House of Commons library data that the number of women over the age of 60 claiming out-of-work benefits has increased between 2013 and 2017, more so than the total number of claimants of all other ages – this shows that women in this demographic are clearly struggling to make ends meet.

In addition, women with low incomes and low savings who would also have expected to receive pension credit as support during their retirement have also lost out on this additional support, as pension credit is only payable when the state pension age is reached.

This is all happening against the backdrop of a spike in pensioner poverty – the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said this time last year that 300,000 more pensioners have been driven into poverty over four years – the first sustained increase in pensioners poverty for 20 years.

This is a political choice – the UK Government know that there is more they can do to support the women affected by these changes who are struggling. The SNP commissioned independent research in 2016 which showed there are a number of options available to mitigate some of the financial detriment these women have faced.

The Chancellor must look again at what options are available and bring forward the necessary funding in the Budget to provide proper support for these women.

Ian Blackford is the SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

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This article originally appeared in the i news.

Picture: Waspi/inews
Picture: Waspi/inews
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