Former office clerk Sally Hyde says three years before her 60th birthday she received an ‘unwarranted’ letter from the Department for Work and Pensions stating that her retirement age had gone up six years to 65. A year later, this rose again to 66
A Waspi campaigner has described the government’s state pension age U-turn as a ‘robbery’ that has pushed thousands of women into poverty.
In 2011, former office clerk Sally Hyde received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stating that her retirement age was rising by five years to 65.
Two years later, she received another letter saying it had risen again and she was now due to retire at 66 instead.
Ms Hyde, now 66, told The Mirror: “I am a 1950’s born woman, and was led to believe from the day I started work, I would get my state pension at age 60.
“I worked as a Saturday Girl in Woolworths, while still at school, then started full time work.”
She spent the next 45 years of her career working in office jobs and had been planning her retirement in the five years before her 60th birthday.
“It would be better if it were called the Great Pension Robbery, as that is quite simply what it is,” Ms Hyde said.
“I paid in for 45 years, but most of those were “contracted out” which meant that even though I had worked more years than necessary to qualify for the full state pension, I still won’t get it, due to the contracted out status.
“I was sent an unrequested pension forecast in 2011 by DWP, and that was the first I realized that the state pension age was rising. Mine had jumped from 60 to 65 in one fell swoop.
“In 2013, I had another letter from the DWP to say yet another year had been added, and my new retirement age was now 66.
“The issue was that I was turning 60 in 2015, which left me with nowhere near enough time to try to make up a six year gap of no pension.”
In 2016, a year after her 60 th birthday, Ms Hyde was then made redundant, leaving her facing an even bigger retirement deficit.
“I lost my role in early 2016, and due to my age, and health issues, I was not able to get another job,” she said.
Fortunately, Ms Hyde’s husband, a former lorry driver, had built up savings which kept them afloat.
“Many women of my age group have not been so fortunate, and are either living in poverty, working in extremely poor health, as they have no support,” she said.
“We wouldn’t mind if we women had had equality all of our working lives, but we never have.
“I was never paid the same amount as men doing the exact same job as me. I was never given the opportunity to apply or get a promotion, as women were never considered to be “wage earners” but were simply earning a bit of ‘pin money’.”
The government says it changed the pension age to make retirement equal among both sexes, but Ms Hyde says: “It is unfair to introduce equality at the destination, when it has not been there for the rest of the journey, but that is exactly what happened.”
“These changes were carried out without giving us the information we required, to prepare for this event.
“This was all decided in 1995, yet I know so many people that were never formally told of the changes.”
She argues it would have been fairer to raise the retirement age to 63 – a ‘meet in the middle’ age for both men and women.
Ms Hyde says the fight goes on for the women of the Waspi generation.
“I have attended any number of protest marches, in Cardiff, London and Manchester.
“This issue affects every household in the UK, we all have a grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousin, niece, daughter or daughter in law, or a friend who is affected, even if you are not affected personally.
“I feel stressed, disappointed, angry and incredibly emotional about the way my generation of female workers were treated in the end. We worked hard and contributed our entire lives, and this was the end result.”
Last summer, the Parliamentary Ombudsman ruled that government officials were “too slow” in informing many women of the rising state pension age . The decision was hailed as a significant victory for the WASPI campaign which called on the government to compensate women affected.
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However the Ombudsman does not have any powers to issue refunds on pensions and cannot recommend that people receive state pensions earlier than permitted under current law.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions previously said: “The Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
“Raising State Pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”
It said both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.
The story behind the Waspi generation
Many women born in the 1950s were initially told they would retire at the age of 60 – five years earlier than men, until the government U-turned in the name of equal rights in 1995.
That year, the Department for Work and Pensions raised the pension age to 65, the same age as men.
But it gave women a 15-year reprieve, and then from 2010 they began to start raising the age gradually.
In 2011, the government sped up the process – and dropped a bombshell on women born in 1953-4, who suddenly learned they would have to wait longer than expected to retire.
This meant women born before 6 April 1950 still could retire at 60, but women born a year later would have to wait longer, and those born in the mid-50s have had to wait until their 66th birthday to claim the state pension.