Wigan Waspi women speak out about consequences of state pension decision on their health, lives and families
Wigan Waspi women have spoken of how their lives have been turned upside down by changes to the age they receive their state pension.
Campaigners from the borough, who are currently trying to battle back from a bruising loss in a High Court case against the Government, spoke of the effect getting their retirement money later has had.
Waspi, which stands for Women Against State Pension Inequality, is not against women receiving their state pension at the same age as men but says the government did not give them time to plan for their new circumstances and has put unfair transition arrangements in place.
And that translates into women across the borough seeing their retirement hopes, dreams and plans shattered, often after decades of working hard.
Others have spoken frankly about the toll their plight has taken on their health.
The situation is all the more difficult for women who are also caring either for loved ones or family members, making it more difficult for them to remain in work.
Annette Weston, who lives in Ashton, quit her job as a cleaner a few months ago, following 12 months of being off sick, as she is looking after her husband who has a rare form of early-onset dementia.
Annette, 65, said: “The thing that has saved us is not having a mortgage to pay. If it wasn’t for that and my husband’s state pension we would have had to sell the house.
“I haven’t had to go to foodbanks or anything like that but we are just managing. We are short of money, living in a house that’s falling apart and can’t do what we would have done if things had been a bit better
“I was working up until last year when I just couldn’t cope. I just cope from one day to another, seeing what each day brings.
“I didn’t expect to be in this situation. The last few years have been catastrophic.
“I believe in equality but I don’t think there’s anything equal at the moment. When I brought my children up women’s lives were very different, very few followed careers and it was about fitting in with the children.
“The way things are now is a big shock, especially when you are caring for somebody. Caring is a full-time job and the attendance allowance of £80 a week is not a wage. You also have to give up your job to care for somebody. You are being hit in different ways.
“It was a big knock for us when we didn’t win the case last week. It dashed our hopes. We didn’t expect to get everything but we thought there would be some hope in the verdict and there was absolutely nothing for us.”
Carol Togher, from Platt Bridge, is also battling a number of health issues while trying to fight for a fair pension settlement.
Carol worked in a managing role at a sheltered accommodation but found the job increasingly demanding.
However, she and her husband have found retirement a stark contrast to what they had been hoping for after their years of working.
She has also kept her correspondence from the government about her pension and is infuriated by the vague language in the letters, wanting to know exactly how long ministers had planned to raise the retirement age but kept those affected in the dark.
Carol, 64, said: “I asked the government for a pension forecast back in 2005 but in the two-page document they never said when I would reach state pension age.
“In 2009 I thought I would ask again and that’s when I found out my state pension age would be in 2019. They said they didn’t expect it to change again but it did, I will now only get mine next year.
“The 2005 letter left me thinking the pension age was still 60.
“That year my job changed and they lowered the age group for the sheltered accommodation. We were getting a lot of people with complex needs, I was older than some of the people coming in and I was verbally attacked. There was a lot of stress. I was coming in and finding my office plastered with abuse.
“My mother told me rationing from the Second World War was still going on when I was born. It feels like I was born in rationing and I’m going to go out in rationing.
“We’re not having the life we expected. We had plans and thoughts for our retirement.
“I’m not destitute because of my husband’s works pension but if I was on my own I would be.
“We love our history and culture and had hoped we would go out to museums and go off abroad and we don’t have the money to do it. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and I don’t think we will ever get there.”
Some of Wigan’s Waspi campaigners have been able to cope to some extent but they are quick to point out how many of their fellow campaigners are struggling.
And even those who have managed to get their financial affairs in order have been left with a deep sense of injustice that they will not receive any reward for the decades they paid into the system and contributed to the economy, often in demanding physical roles.
Mary Carter from Higher Ince, who at 63 is still cleaning the cells at Wigan police station, is one of them.
She said: “I will have worked 45 years by the time I retire, I started at a supermarket at 15.
“My husband retired at 55 taking his work pension and I’m still working. I just don’t think it’s fair.
“I’m not ill or anything but I do a physical job. I would like to start volunteering with the hospice or with a homeless organisation but I can’t do that. I wouldn’t mind helping out more at my church too but I can’t because I’m still working.
“Some women are struggling. It’s really unfair on people who are ill or have to look after parents or husbands.”