Norfolk women wage war over increased state pension age

Women from the PAIN – WASPI Norfolk Group symbolically ‘chained’ themselves to the bandstand at Chapelfield Gardens, wearing garb reminiscent of the suffrage movement and holding signs saying: ‘I have my vote, now I want my pension!’

“It’s raining today but if we don’t get what we want it’ll be raining for 40 days and 40 nights,” Helen McDermott, a host on Mustard TV, said during a speech at the protest.

Changes in 1995 and 2011 to the state pension age mean women born on or after April 6, 1951 can expect to retire up to six years later than they had originally planned.

Some 45,000 women in Norfolk are affected by the decision. To add insult to injury, the protestors said, successive governments sent some women letters about the change in policy, but gave others no warning at all.

Protestors tell their side

Member Joy Waters:

“I became involved as soon as the law was changed and they increased the State Pension age for women, but I’ve been campaigning since sort of 2011.

“Some years ago I expected to retire at 60 and I’ve now got years to go. I’m still working part-time and I have grandchildren to look after. I’ve got two elderly parents in their late 80’s, which is a great blessing, but they both have a lot of health issues and could do with more help than I’m able to give them because I’m still working.

“We’re the generation that’s had the least opportunity to build up private pensions, we’ve had the least options, and we’ve been forced with the biggest increase.”

Member Pat Warwick:

“I was born in March 1954 and now I can’t get my pension until I’m 65, so if I had been born exactly one year earlier I would already have my pension now. They’re not even doing it in a fair way.

“The women in the Suffrage Movement had to fight for the justice they wanted, they had to fight to get the vote. Now we’ve got the vote and now we need our pensions.

“I’m now totally reliant on my husband for everything. I have to get money from him and I don’t have any independence in buying anything on my own. I’ve worked all my life and anything I had I earned and worked for. I shouldn’t have to depend on someone else.”

“The changes were implemented too quickly, too steeply and without adequate notification.

“The government waited 14 years before it started writing letters to women and some of these women still haven’t had a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions to say they’re losing up to £40,000 in their state pension benefit,” Debbie De Spon, protest organiser, said.

After working for decades, many of the protestors felt entitled to a standard pension. Some expressed concern at not being able to care for family members, such as parents or young grandchildren, because of the delayed retirement age.

There are also memories of past injustices; women weren’t allowed to join pension schemes until the 1990’s. Many protestors linked their anger surrounding pension changes to the fervour of the suffrage movement during the early 20th century.

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