CAMPAIGNERS from the Coventry and Warwickshire WASPI (Women Against State Pension Injustice) took their cause to this year’s Conservative Party Conference.
The delegation joined more than 200 1950s-born women in Manchester, rallying alongside the Emmeline Pankhurst statue in St Peter’s Square. Many covered their faces with white masks to symbolise the millions of anonymous women affected by changes to their state pension age.
They joined the WASPI Silent Rally to highlight the recent Ombudsman’s ruling of maladministration after 3.8million 1950s born women were not given enough notice that they would have to wait several more years for their State Pension. A tribute was paid to the many thousands of 1950s women who have died before reaching their new pension age.
Chris Reeve from Coventry and Warwickshire WASPI, said: “We wanted to remind the government that the Ombudsman’s ruling of maladministration cannot be ignored.
For many women the lack of proper notice that their pension age had changed was catastrophic.
“Some had to sell their homes, others continued working whilst physically or mentally challenged or had to break their promises to look after grandchildren or elderly relatives.
“We are calling on the government to provide fair and fast compensation for the injustice these women have suffered.”
At 12pm a Remembrance Ceremony including a moment of silence took place. WASPI members placed a coffin at the foot of the statue. Purple flowers were left at the scene. Women held up names and photographs of loved ones who passed away before reaching their new pension age.
Mistress of Ceremonies Elizabeth Stanley from the WASPI Steering Group then addressed the crowd:
“The WASPI women will get justice in the end. The time has come to say ‘Let’s not dwell on the wrongs of the past. Do something now to put it right. We have waited and waited, many of us in desperate straights.
“The spirit of the time is with us.
“We have support in Parliament but we need more.
“Our message to MPs is ‘You’re the people who can put these wrongs right. It’s time for you to bring us a solution.’
Linda Wyatt of Modern Day Suffragettes added: “At long last we have been vindicated.
“Maladministration was found by the Ombudsman.
“We want to be treated with fairness and justice.
“Sadly any compensation will come too late for thousands of women who have died before reaching their new state pension age.
“Every day 60 women aged 60 to 66 die without their state pension. This is over 21,000 a year in England and Wales alone. This is a shocking statistic. They deserved better. “
They were followed by speeches from Andrew Gwynne MP and Peter Aldous MP, Labour and Conservative Co-Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Pension Inequality.
Andrew Gwynne said: “I was overjoyed at the Ombudsman’s finding of maladministration, even though it took place under a Labour Government.
“It vindicated what 1950s women’s groups have been saying for the past decade.
“You were not notified in time to make alternative arrangements when you got the shocking news that you would have to wait a further six years for your pensions.
“You faced real injustice, real hardship and every one of you had to make difficult choices.”
Peter Aldous MP said: “There are tens of thousands of compelling WASPI stories and tragedies. The Ombudsman has three questions to answer.
“First – was there maladministration? The answer is loud and clear. ‘Yes, there was!’
“The next question ‘Was there injustice?’ We know there was!
“The final question is ‘What should the level of compensation be?’ We’re now in the last stage of a very long journey towards justice for WASPI women.
“I will work flat out to get you a fair outcome.”
The Silent Rally took place between 11am and 2pm.