Coronavirus has had a devastating impact globally, with loss sadly being felt across the world. The economic impact has meant millions of people in the UK have lost their jobs, faced pay cuts and/or had to turn to the state for support.
This week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak set out his plans for the support schemes for the next year in the 2021 Spring Budget.
State pension age campaign group WASPI had been calling on the Chancellor for compensation and “emergency” action for the 1950s-born women who have been affected by the state pension age changes for women.
It comes following the state pension age for women increased from 60 to 65 to be in line with men under the Pensions Act 1995, with these changes then accelerated under the Pensions Act 2011.
Since state pension age parity was reached in November 2018, it has risen for both men and women to 66, and further increases are ahead.
WAPSI doesn’t oppose the equalisation of the state pension age, but instead argues against the way in which the changes were brought in.
Responding to the 2021 Spring Budget, a WASPI spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “WASPI is once again disappointed that the Chancellor has ignored the call for emergency support for women born in the 1950s who have been impacted by COVID-19, as well as already being disadvantaged by two increases to their state pension age, with no proper notification.
READ MORE: State pension age changes – WASPI urges Rishi Sunak to grant ’emergency measure’
“WASPI women have been working as essential workers, and providing care for family and relatives in recent months.
“Once again we feel let down, and overlooked.
“WASPI will continue to campaign for compensation for all 1950s women.”
The campaigners have spoken of how the COVID-19 crisis has deepened the challenges many women born in the 1950s have experienced.
“WASPI women were already suffering severe hardship for years prior to the pandemic and now find themselves in an even more challenging position,” WASPI Communications Director Debbie de Spon told Express.co.uk.
“Women born in the 1950s expected to retire at 60 and were given little or no notice of an up to six-year increase in their state pension age.
“We already know, based on research from public health specialists, that increases to the state pension age may have unintended consequences such as worsening the health of those already ill and adding new demands on primary medical care services.
“Research into the impact of raising the state pension age confirms a correlation, perhaps even a causal link, with increased poverty and worsening health amongst older women.”
Addressing the pandemic and the impact it’s had on women affected by the state pension age changes, she continued: “Many older workers, both men and women, are not included in the Government schemes to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Calls for Action to help alleviate the impact of the COVIS-19 pandemic have been ignored by the Government.
“A significant number of older workers – particularly women – work in sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic such as retail, hospitality and casual employment.
“We know that the pandemic has had a disproportionate economic impact on women.”
It’s something which many women have shared their experience about, Mrs de Spon said.
“The pandemic has impacted many of us,” she said. “We hear from women who are self-employed and worried about their income, and other women in the at-risk age group who have gone back to the frontline to work, and fear for their health.
“Many women, who relied on casual work which is no longer available, face the prospect of no income until they retire and are expected to live on their savings or rely on husbands and partners.”
While some may be able to claim Universal Credit, eligibility rules mean the claimant and their partner must have £16,000 or less in savings between them.
“For many other women, who had retired early to look after elderly parents and expected their State Pension at 60, returning to their previous careers in teaching or nursing proved to be impossible,” Mrs de Spon added.
“As such they find themselves ‘over qualified’ to find other work. All of this affects women’s financial independence.
“This Government appear to focus intergenerational fairness on helping the young. There are no schemes we are aware of to help the older unemployed.
“Older workers ‘champions’ were promised. Women who have sought help are disappointed by what little is available by way of support back into work for them.”
WASPI women have reported difficulties in finding suitable work, and the challenge to find a job has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the campaigners say.
“Women in their 60s find few opportunities for regular work,” Mrs de Spon said.
“Many work in the gig economy on fixed term contracts, zero-hours contracts and seasonal work. These jobs have all but disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Poor women have become poorer during the pandemic, and many fear that they will not regain employment before they retire.
“As well as condemning them to a life of poverty when they have worked for 30 years or more, they are left feeling hopeless.
“Universal Credit is a benefit designed to get people back to work.
“When there is little or no hope of regaining employment, people claiming Universal Credit are condemned to a life of poverty and hopelessness.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided 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 and this has been clearly communicated.
“Raising state pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.
“Experienced workers are a huge asset to this country and we are doubling the number of frontline Work Coaches, offering tailored support to ensure people find a job that’s right for them.
“Our welfare safety net is there for people who are unable to work.”