In this episode we talk about how and why the WASPI campaign started
Which women are affected by the increase in state pension age and how.
What progress has the WASPI campaign made so far
Are transitional pension arrangements likely?
What can be achieved by the judicial review as a result of the Back to 60 campaign
Next steps in the fight for justice for women affected by the increase in state pension age
Full episode transcript of the Podcast with Anne Keen on the WASPI campaign:
[00:00:04] I’m Ceri Wheeldon. Welcome to the Fab after Fifty podcast. Leading the pro age conversation, talking about all things life after 50.
[00:00:16] Hello. And welcome to this week’s episode of the Fab after 50 podcast and I have with me today Anne Keen, who is the founder of the WASPI Campaign. Hello and welcome to Fab after 50.
[00:00:27] Oh, hello Ceri. Thanks very much for this. For giving me this opportunity to raise further awareness of the WASPI campaign, very much appreciated. For those that perhaps don’t know what is the WASPI campaign?
[00:00:42] Well, WASPI as women against state pension injustice. Initially, I’m the co-founder, one of five. The campaign was co-founded and was founded in 2015. And that was three years after I was informed of the changes to my state pension age. I’m basically campaigning for justice for women born in the 1950s who have been affected by the changes to the state pension age.
[00:01:12] It was quite sudden, wasn’t it? I mean, we’re told it was signed some time ago, but I don’t think it was communicated that well.
[00:01:19] No, it wasn’t. And that was one of the key crux of the campaign. Basically, I found out in 2012 that my pension age had been increased by two years, eight months and six days. And that was through the second letter I received from the DWP. And it was sent believe the whole not so long story. I’ll keep it short and to increase. My husband and I were very fortunate to have a year off from our work in 2009. Increase was like a sabbatical because our plans were to retire to Greece. And obviously you’re in a different mindset when you’re on holiday. So we were in Greece 2009. Back to 2010. We continue to holiday in the same place in Greece 2012. There was a letter waiting for me from the DWP of your and it just said to notify you of your new state pension age. Well, Ceri, I was absolutely shocked. It was like a blow. I was in shock. I really was. I’m so sick I thought they’d made a mistake. So anyway, when I got back home from holiday I rang the DWP, I was in a serious state and they said no that’s your new state pension age. I said, well, I’ve never, ever been notified. And they just said, well, all letters were sent out. So anyway, from there, me being me, I abhor injustice. I really do. I then started a petition through 38 degrees called Reverse the State Pension Age because I was oblivious to the 1995 and the 2011 acts. So the letter, by the way, I received and it was dated January 2012 and it was May 2012, I read it, and that was 13 months before I expected to receive my pension payments.
[00:03:16] I know from personal experience, I mean, a number of times I’ve had meetings with no financial advisors since 1995. And then yet it always seemed to be that women retire at 60. So they never asked me. Oh, it’s all based on your birthday. You’ll be retiring later. It was always way given that 60 was the retirement age.
[00:03:36] Absolutely. You make a good point there, because even judges in divorce settlements. They didn’t know and settlements based on women retiring at 60
[00:03:49] It’s been very recent that that’s been happening. And, you know, I said the same about when I found out I started a petition. 38 agrees. 2012, just carrying on and carrying on, In 2014, the end of 2014 one of the co-founders contacted me. I’ve just seen the petition. We started communicating quite regularly by email and she was very thorough. She was writing to MPs then the following year in February, March , three of the other co-founders just contacted me and we just started communicating on a regular basis. And then we thought oh, we’ve got something here. We have so many facts. And you wouldn’t believe Freedom of Information requests, for example. One example is the only letters we’ve sent out to one cohort of women in 2009, 14 years after the 95 fact. So we met and one of the co-founders, with a guy with his own PR company Chris Shaw. He said, Really, what you need is a brand. You need something people can identify with and lots oftoing and froing So when was this how WASPI was created? And it was a few months after that when we found out more facts about state pension age on the acts themselves. I handed my petition in because we were advised by politicians, you know, all about reversing the state pension age and it’s never going to happen. And you know something, Ceri? We were and this is where we were greeted as political activists. We were just five ordinary women. And no one can ever take away from us five women, although we have parted ways.
[00:05:41] No one can take away what we started because what we’ve started is what people like. It started, as people say, kitchen sink, a kitchen sink campaign. We started out as a kitchen sink campaign. And now we’ve been acknowledged as the most successful women’s campaign in this century. And that’s something to be very, very proud of. You should be proud. Absolutely. We are and sometimes times, you know, I sit there and it’s shocking to think how far we’ve come because we have achieved such a lot. And we believe the women of the fifties. The politicians thought, you know, we were an easy target. By the time they find out, you’re going to be sitting there knitting or doing whatever. They didn’t realise how passionate, how determined we are to achieve justice. And you know, and there have been. And like most organisations and political parties, there’ve been a few internal issues. But we resolve them because that was the campaign initially started out as women against pension inequality for one reason or another myself and other directors resigned in July last year for the good of the campaign. And what we agreed on and decided upon, we consulted with our local group coordinators with almost 90 groups throughout the UK. We thought, let’s focus on campaigning and let’s lobby MPs further. That said, let’s strengthen the links with all already has with the unions. Which we’ve already done. And again, we’re really, really proud of what we have achieved.
[00:07:32] So what are the issues facing women? It may be some women still aren’t familiar with what the actual issues are facing women today who were expecting to retire at 60.
[00:07:44] Well, basically, the issues are you’re right. So we have yet to find out what their state pension age has been increased to. And what we were calling upon the government is for transitional arrangements. That equates to a bridging pension, which when people get 60, they will receive a proportion of their state to be discussed with the government because they failed to engage and they will receive a portion of their state pension a bridging pension until they reach their new state pension age whereby they will receive the full amount. So women, myself included, have already received our pensions. So we’re also calling for recompense for those women to receive recompense for the money they’ve lost. One of the issues is a major issue. Women have lost 50000 £50,000 of their retirement savings. You know, women have sold their homes more than once because they couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage. You know, I mean, they may not have a partner or their partner may have been retired themselves. Women have had to face the indignity and humiliation of having to sign on at the Jobcentre to claim JSA and ESA benefits. No, this is absolutely appalling for women like ourselves. And most of us have started work and we started working when we were 15,paid our dues. And we fully expected to retire at 60 because no body told us otherwise.
[00:09:23] No. I mean, they made a good point there, though. I mean, with women having to who can’t find help having to sign on how much to discussion, I mean, I have asked this question myself and I haven’t really got any responses from various politicians I’ve met. How much discussion was there with industry in terms of if women are working for longer? What were the jobs likely to be that they were going to be able to be employed in and what sectors that hadn’t really ever been addressed have it?
[00:09:52] Absolutely not. No, it’s nothing more than you know. This is wrong on so many levels. There’s been nothing out there to say. These are the jobs available. You know, Guy Opperman had the audacity to suggest that we go on apprenticeships. And, you know, some I mean, he was ridiculed not just by MPs and journalists, like obviously women born in the 50s to actually suggest to a woman who can barely make ends meet because there are some women out there who are visiting food banks and relying upon friends, family, neighbors to feed them, to clothe them there are hundreds of stories. So you’re right there. So to say, OK, you know, force women because that’s what they’re doing, forcing them to work. What in what capacity? Lots of women have got very physical demanding jobs and they cannot continue on. You know, it’s not just on physical points of view. It’s the mental impact it has on womenCeri. Now, you know, go to a doctor, doctors on antidepressants. They’ve got breakdowns and it’s pushed women over the edge. And we agree Waspi with equalization. It was the way it was implemented. We also agree. If women want to carry on working, that’s their choice. What we can gather on the and the information we usually see from our followers is taht Most women, the majority, do want to retire and have the financial security they planned on having since they started work.
[00:11:42] I mean, one of the things I would like to add here is that there are women who choose to work beyond the age of sixty because they want and we have lots of tips on the Fab after Fifty websites. My background is headhunting. We’ve got lots of tips for those women beyond the age of 50 who want to reinvent their career or who are looking for a job or to update their skills, but those that choose to. That opportunity is there. But I think the argument here is the fact that people weren’t given notice to plan their lives accordingly. Haven’t been able to prepare for it. Yes.
[00:12:12] That is the crux of the campaign. You know, if people were informed in 1995 when we were in our 30s, approaching 40s, we would have had a least 15 to 20 years to replan our retirement. It would have that would have been in line with the terms of the commission who recommend that people should have at least 15 years notice of any plans and changes to their state pension age. Age concern of recommended 10. And even although that’s a certain amount. It’s not an awful lot of time to totally revamp and evaluate your plans for retirement.
[00:12:57] No. And if we go back to 1995. How was it? Was it communicated to anybody or how would people have even been aware of that change in the situation back then?
[00:13:11] Well, we wanted to see I mean, there were some people who might have seen it not everybody who may have that. Apparently, there was an advert in the Financial Times and a few were in high brow sorts of papers and some people maybe who worked in the banking industry. Also the DWP. So not all people who work for the DWP were made aware because of the nature of their career. Right. So the letters, the very first letters sent out, and that was to women born from the six April 1950 to the 5th of April 1951, that one cohort of women, they were sent letters notifying them of the increase to their state pension age people. The women like myself, who were born on or after sixth of April 51 percent a another staunch of letters , more letters were sent out in January 2010. All right. Not everybody. I received one but my sister. She’s two years younger than me. She’s yet to receive a letter. So there are thousands and thousands of women who are totally oblivious Ceri, you know. I said earlier, we’ve got all of these local groups of the country. And lately, many of us have been holding weekly gatherings in areas, in shopping, retail parks, and railway stations to raise the profile of WASPI. And we found that women who were, you know, curious, human nature are very curious. What’s all this about, and when we tell them and they say I’m retiring in 2 months I will get my pension then. .
[00:15:04] And we say ‘you don’t. It can be physically painful to say that to them. So we refer them to our website , which is WASPICampaign2018.com . OK. There’s a plethora of information on there. How the changes came to be, the freedom of Information requests that WASP has unearthed. It’s it’s really it’s quite shocking to see that these women have still yet to be notified that all of the women and held him down more than one job, get up at half four in the morning to go out to do a cleaning job or whatever and then go on to another. I must have said, sure, it’s wrong on so many levels of how the government can not even acknowledge this injustice beggars belief. Obviously, I think we’re all aware the moment they do acknowledge there’s been an unjust and injustice. The more that they have to do something about it. But they keep coming up with these myths. No one has to wait more than 18 months, for example. And I’d like to clarify, that isn’t only in relation to the 2011 act, whereby initially they were going to increase a further state pension increase. And by two years, because there was quite a lot of opposition from saga and age UK they knocked six months off that. So in relation to the 2011 pension, no woman received more than 18 months extra time on her pension. What they conveniently forget to mention the biggest increase was in relation to the 1995 act.
[00:16:53] Mine was then three years, two months and six days. I lay out six months added on in 2011 act
[00:17:03] I thinkmine was 6 years X number of months. Can’t Quite remember but I’m from the late 50s, but I’m still affected by it as well. In fact before the 2011 act became it became law. Myself and Sarah Pennell who runs tje Savvy Woman website. We actually tried to get them into write to MPs. We gave sample letters to people to download to actually fight against it before it was law. And we couldn’t get anybody to participate because I think it wasn’t really known. I don’t think we would really appreciated how it was going to affect them. Campaigns like yours created more awareness later that people suddenly said, Oh, yes, I’m one of these women. And it does it does affect me.
[00:17:49] And I think it’s great that yourself and other women have tried to get this off the ground. And that’s why, you know, in 2012, I couldn’t see any any other campaigns out there. And so when I started my petition and it gained momentum, handed it in in 2016, the government 55000 signatures, I never got a response from the DWP. It never resulted in a debate. We have a petition to wash the campaign in 2015. Not long after we actually were founded. We created a petition, a government position position calling for transitional arrangements, and that gathered one hundred and ninety one thousand signatures.
[00:18:41] And this resulted in countless debates in Parliament. Okay. Unfortunately, those debates, you know, give a non-binding. Although there was votes that were non-binding votes, but the number of MPs who actually came on board, we know they all support us to the hilt. And I must admit, I must mention this point the WASPI campaign. It’s like we’ve sort of rebranded ourselves in July last year. We knuckled down and thought right. We’ve been far too quiet, far too nice for far too long. So we said, let’s follow the suffragette system. You know, it’s deeds, not words. So the first, like, protest. Besides, we had a few static demonstrations. We actually collaborated with two other pension groups, Back to 60 and W’ve paid in, you pay out.
[00:19:38] WASPI initiated taht collaboration. And our first joint venture was a rally in London in October last year. And it was so successful, we had some really, really fabulous guest speakers to join and David Hemp, Sophie Walker, Jim Rogers and many, many others who were there supporting the campaign. That was early October, at the end of October for the autumn budget speech. Countless WASPIs were in the public gallery. We waited for Philip Hammond hoping to at least give us the courtesy and decency of acknowledging us those of maybe giving us something in the budget but he never. So we staged a protest. We stood there with our WASPI heads held high? We did make some noise and, you know, something heavy and all of the main SNPs. Welsh MPs, all the opposition MP stood up and gave us a round of applause. And it was such an empowering moment for us all. The numbers of private messages we received, tweets, everything on social media went ballistic and we thought we need to do more of this. And so we were obviously asked to leave the public gallery which we did.
[00:21:06] We went to college green. We make our presence felt on college green where the press, congregate. We were on Sky News and Channel 4. And then again, in the spring budget, we stopped the traffic, we stopped the traffic on our October rally day for an hour and a half outside parliament. That was also in parliament. And on the spring budget day, we stopped the traffic again. Then we went out to college green to storm college. We put barriers all the way around it. And we got quite a lot of publicity. And that’s what we’re doing now. Upping the anti. On our WASPI campaign 2018 there is the story on our website, on our Facebook page. You know, search them using those words. WASPI Campaign 2018. You’ll see how active we’ve been. We’re not going to take no for an answer. You know, in this current political climate, this is an ideal opportunity. You know, the opposition to say really?
[00:22:14] I mean, it’s not just the current government that because Labour also has been in power in this period where they could also have communicated it, couldn’t they? Oh, absolutely. And we think it’s very wrong. It’s not just not just the current government. I think it’s something nobody has been willing to say in terms of the communication of legislation or the fallout in terms of what is you know, what is what would the impact be on these women affected. I think we have to say it is not just one party.
[00:22:43] No, you are absolutely right. I’m glad you raised that point. But what we’re seeing there since 2011, you have the coalition governments where they act. They actually increased the they accelerated increase of state pension age. In their manifesto, the Tories and the Lib Dems said they would not. And there was increased state pension age by 2020, up until 2020. Right. They actually accelerated that age by increasing the age to two thousand eleven and 12 when they sent the letters out. And what we’re saying is they have now eight years to right this wrong eight years. And they’ve not even acknowledged that we’ve been treated unfairly. So that is that counter to what you’ve just said? You’re absolutely right. Labour has been in power. They did not convey the changes. So I think everyone all of the parties we support said keep quiet and no one will cotton on honestly what’s actually happening.
[00:23:46] I think that was because after 50 were invisible so they wont hear from us you see.
[00:23:49] Absolutely. The longer it goes on, the more determined we become. Because, you know, I say that women are using food banks now, people of sold homes, and to say that their mental health has been affected. And also, we just we’re not asking for handouts. You know, all we’re asking is for what we’re entitled to. That is the top and bottom of it all. The government say there’s no money, which again, is quite patronising. We know the money’s there, the national insurance was pillagde to pay all sorts of debts off when they want to pay for something, they find miraculously. They’ll go and shake the money tree into the garden and lo and behold, the billions and billions of pounds spent on all the projects. And we are very pleased to see that John Macdonald actually said he will clamp down on tax avoidance and tax evasion. You know, surely. Back in their manifesto, that’s something we the WASPI campaign have been saying for years. Yes, we’ve said to the governments why, you know, all of these companies, you know, they hated paying tax. We’ve paid our tax. We’ve done everything that’s been expected of us throughout our working lives we’ve paid our dues. Some people still working, although they have paid the qualifying contributions, they still pay in contributions. Well, I say the more you look into it, Ceri, the more wrong it is on so many levels, but we’re never going to give up.
[00:25:29] What’s the nest milestone then? Am I right in thinking that there is judicial review
[00:25:37] It should be. This has been initiated by Back to 60 . We are cooperative with them and We’ve Paid In , You Pay Out. They persisted and persisted on this issue, and we were delighted. We’ve supported them all of the way, although it’s all different. We respect each of the tasks. We congratulated them. We support them on the judicial review takes place on the 5th and 6th of June. So. I’m not far off them. Not at all. There will be small presence in London to support them. Then later on in the year the next steps will be dependent on the outcome of this judicial review. What we’re hoping hoping to celebrate. So there will be one, massive demonstration in London. You know, it takes time to plan. Obviously, there will be a joint demonstration. And we’ve yet to discuss it in full with the two other organisations, two campaign groups. And so we want to be there. celebrating. If this JR goes against us, which we don’t really want to think about, we will still have a demonstration and it will be a demonstration to protest. But we’re hoping it won’t come to that. We are, you know, and all we’ve got to do. You’ve got to applaud Back to 60 for being so determined in getting this far. I must say, we just hope, like every other woman affected in the country, and families, have been affected as well. We hope the outcome is positive for everybody. Can we just elaborate on that. the right wing press and the government will have people believe there’s an intergenerational war. Again, it’s a load of rubbish. There’s not. We have so much support from the young generation. Obviously, the majority of this 50 something women have their own children who fully support us. Their friends, support us. We’ve got student unions supporting us. We’ve got political and youth groups supporting us. So we know what the government’s churn out, the myths they churn out. Basically, we feel they’re doing that, its smokescreens and mirror. Trying to take everybody off the scent, but we keep coming back stronger, more determined than ever.
[00:28:07] Well, I wish for you obviously for all of us, let’s hope an optimistic and positive outcome early June and lets see the results back and then we can have a catch up. Following that. And then we can do that. Look to see how women are affected by this legislation and then the effects depending on which way that review goes.
[00:28:32] Absolutely. And hopefully you’ll be a very positive conversation. Just say, yes, I believe it takes two weeks before the outcome of the JR is announced. Right. You know, one way or the other, we’ll be celebrating.
[00:28:45] Hopefully we’ll be celebrating and then that’ll be the case. Yes. Thank you so much for sharing that Anne. I think for the women who don’t know and those who are affected by it can you just give us the website URL so that people will find you.
[00:29:05] Ok. Yes, it’s www.waspicampaign2018 (figures) dot co dot UK. And I would ask everybody to look on the local group page as well, Ceri, because you know, I just said we’ve got numerous local groups throughout the UK. Anyone can join these groups and WASPI women can join these groups. If that isn’t a group in a particular area and women would like to start one their own group. I would just want to show them that they will have full support. We’ve actually got a fabulous mentor scheme going on in whereby an experienced co-ordinator is teamed up with a new co-ordinator as their first point of contact. So they will offer advice and guidance. And it’s a great support system. It really, really is wonderful.
[00:29:58] Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you. An important issue. Certainly all women in the UK. So that could, in fact, even if people aren’t due to retire now. It’s going to affect those that are due to retire later, isn’t it? So you want to be aware of. It is for younger generation as well and much more.
[00:30:19] We’ve got their support.
[00:30:19] They know that they’re next. Right. So thank you very much Anne for joining us today. So and so that was Anne Keen co-founder of WASPI. Thank you, Anne.
[00:30:33] Thank you, Ceri. Really appreciate this opportunity.
[00:30:41] Thank you for joining us today. Please do subscribe and also send the link to friends and be part of the pro age conversation. Life really is meant to be fabulous at every age, but especially after 50.