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Waspi women fighting for £10,000 each in compensation

Women affected by the state pension age changes have vowed to push for a compensation scheme, insisting they will not “roll over” if the Government refuses to set one up.

“We need to see proper compensation – there should be something for everyone affected,” said Frances Neil, who was 59 when she found out her state pension age was being pushed back from 60 to 65.

Ms Neil is one of the 1950s-born women who say they lost out financially because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to properly notify them that their pension age was increasing.

Women in her situation are often referred to as Waspi women, after one of the main campaign groups, Women Against State Pension Inequality. 

Speaking to i as the official report into how women’s state pension age changes were communicated is set to finally be published, Ms Neil said: “I was totally shocked.

“It was like a bucket of cold water being chucked on your face,” said the former headteacher from Southend-on-Sea. “There were other teachers in the same boat. We hadn’t been told. Nobody had received information from the DWP.”

Ms Neil had been planning to retire as a primary school headteacher at 60, but was forced to stay on instead.

“It totally disrupted all the plans I had made to spend more time looking after family, looking after grandchildren,” said the 67-year-old. “It made life so much more stressful, and more of a financial struggle than it should have been.”

Ms Neil, who campaigns with the Waspi group, was forced to retire at 62 because of ill-health. It left her struggling to manage on a small teacher’s pension for several years.

She estimates that the five years without the state pension that she had been expecting cost her around £42,000, based on pension payments being around £8,500 a year during the period.

“I’m relatively fortunate, but we have women in our group in Essex who had given up jobs whose lives were totally ruined,” she said.

A five-year investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) into alleged failures at the DWP over communicating the state pension age changes is now finally complete. The ombudsman’s findings could recommend that Rishi Sunak’s Government set up a compensation scheme.

Ms Neil and other campaigners want to see the PHSO recommend £10,000 payments for all 3.6 million Waspi women, with higher sums awarded for those most affected by the changes.

But any compensation scheme will be up to the Government, and the Waspi women fear both the Conservatives and Labour could delay any scheme until after this year’s general election.

“Time is of the essence. We’ve waited long enough for justice. If there’s compensation recommended, then the Government can’t delay any longer,” said Ms Neil.

“We’re terrified all the political parties will say, ‘The country cannot afford it’, and delay and delay. But we will keep pushing all of them. We’re not going to roll over.”

Angela Madden, chair of the Waspi group, also said she was not given proper notice that the state pension she had been expecting at 60 would be put back until she was 66.

Ms Madden, now 70, urged both the Tories and Labour to agree on the set-up of a compensation scheme before the general election. But if a decision is delayed, she warned that Waspi women would demand the parties make firm promises in their manifestos.

“It will be a huge political football,” she said. “All parties should know there are 3.6 million women for whom it will be a major reason to vote this year. The politicians must put the money where their mouth is and commit to compensation.”

The DWP and the PHSO said they will not comment on the report ahead of its publication.

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