Campaign calling for women's pension gap to be met by Government takes to the streets

Women have taken to the streets as they fight for action over a pension change which has left them struggling.
Members of Women Against State Pension Inequality take part in the demonstation.Members of Women Against State Pension Inequality take part in the demonstation.
Members of Women Against State Pension Inequality take part in the demonstation.

A team assembled in Sunderland’s Market Square today as members of Woman Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) called on shoppers to add their names to a petition to each of the MPs across Sunderland, South Tyneside, Durham and Easington.

The appeal was set up to call on the Government to put in place a bridging pension to cover the gap from 60 until state pension age and issue compensation for those who have already reached that age.

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The change came with a rise in the women’s state pension age to 65 in 1995, bringing it in line with men’s, and while the women say they agree with equalisation, they do not agree with the “unfair” way it was implemented, how it happened faster than promised and without time to make alternative plans.

The women say they were not sent letters or any notice about the changes, leaving many with financial difficulties as they had not been warned of the gap.

Among those to take part in the demonstration was Moria Scales, a former Royal College of Nursing member, who worked as a health co-ordinator for the NHS until she was 58.

The 60-year-old mum-of-two from Sunderland said: “I had to retire early through ill health and my partner’s ill health, but that was my choice, but it depended on getting a pension at 60.

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“I had no letters from the Department for Work and Pensions.

“Financially it’s made a big difference, we’ve had to use savings and I’ve lost between £40,000 and £45,000.

“What’s made us angry is the historical aspect to it.
“We weren’t warned prior and many of us paid the same as men and into the same system.

“You work all your life and you have to wait longer for your pension.

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“The reaction from people here today has been very positive.”

Among those to sign the petition were Chris Hope, 60, from Sunderland, who is semi-retired and still works in the city’s maternity unit’s screening section.

She said: “I just think, I’ve worked hard all my life and I planned to retire at 60, and I can’t afford to.

“They should let us go, pay us what they should have, and let these kids have a chance to work.

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“Some of these young people have never worked a day in their life, give them the opportunity.”

​​Also among those protesting was Alex Myers, from South Shields, who also worked for the NHS as an estates officer until her recent retirement at 64.

She has found out she could have retired almost two years ago but worked for longer because she was given the wrong information.

“People have put their life and soul into their work and their career and when they come to retire, they’re being told by the Government they can’t.

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“I know this goes back until 1995 and different political parties, but it’s unfair.”

Sunderland MP Julie Elliott has offered her backing to the campaign, as have fellow Wearside MPs Bridget Phillipson, Sharon Hodgson, South Tyneside’s Emma Lewell-Buck and Durham City’s Roberta Blackman-Wood.

Ms Ellliott: “We recognise that pension ages needed to change but people to be given enough warning to plan.”

The North East WASPI group’s next event will be held on Friday at Monument in Newcastle from 9am to 5pm, as members join in a national day of action.