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WASPI group buoyed by buzz of support

Terry smiling headWomen campaigning against the extension to the state pension age will be encouraged by a surge in support for their cause in Westminster.

Not only is there evidence of more MPs being persuaded that the legislation is wrong, the ranks of those backing the campaign is coming from all parties.

The WASPI group (Women Against State Pension Inequality) has fought a tenacious battle over the extension to the state pension from 60 to 66 for millions born in the 1950s.

They claim they were not told soon enough about the plans and that the government has broken a contract which entitled them to their pension at 60 after paying in their national insurance contributions over the required period.

It has left almost 4 million women with a pension shortfall and, in some cases, many are facing severe hardship, particularly those in poor health or having to look after others.

Now, 184 of Westminster’s 650 MPs have rallied behind the WASPI banner.

WASPI director Jane Cowley says the general election gave the campaign an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue. A subsequent early day motion and debate in Westminster Hall in July, has led more MPs to sign up.

The Government, however, appears to be digging in its heels and showing few signs of relenting. The Department for Work and Pensions insists there are no plans to amend the legislation and says the process has been under way for 20 years.

Its argument is that there is a need not only to achieve gender equality, something that is both fair and sustainable, but that the government must account for how it supports greater numbers of people living longer lives. Life expectancy in 1900 was 31. In 2015 it was 72. By 2030 it could be 120, according to some estimates. Unless people work longer this will put enormous strain on the public finances.

The department points out that women retiring today can still expect to receive the state pension for 26 years on average – which is more than any generation before them and several years longer than men.

For the WASPI women the issue is more about a breakdown of trust and a betrayal of those who have paid their dues.

They want the government to change the state pension age timetable, though a plan to make transitional payments, proposed by a committee chaired by Frank Field MP, has also been rejected as unworkable.

The WASPI women say they will continue to campaign until the government  “re-evaluates its position.”
With the DWP’s intransigence matched by WASPI’s determination it looks like this could be a case of who blinks first.
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