Falkirk WASPI hold “empowering” meeting

Provost Pat Reid and local councillors turned out at the WASPI event
Provost Pat Reid and local councillors turned out at the WASPI event

Falkirk women who have had their state pensions delayed by up to six years gathered at Trinity Church on Saturday to share their experiences.

More than 80 women turned out to the event organised by the local arm of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), a UK-wide pressure group set up to represent women affected by the state pension age changes.

WASPI estimates that 4940 women in Falkirk have lost out on penison income, one of the highest incidence rates in the country.

The changes began in 1995 when the government brought the age at which women received their pension into line with men to aged 65.

Then, in 2011, the coalition government ruled that the new pension age of 65 would be brought in two years earlier in 2018 and for both sexes it would also rise to 66 in 2020.

While WASPI is not against being on an equal playing field with men, it does believe women have not been giving enough notice.

Lorna Binnie, one of the co-ordinators of the Falkirk group, said: “Of course we support bringing about equality in pensions between men and women.

“But the problem is that the government didn’t inform women when it made the change in 1995.

“Then, when it changed in 2011, many women were again not informed of that change either.

“We are still meeting women in Falkirk who genuinely believe they will get their pension at 60.

“The lack of notice has caused real problems, not allowing women time to plan for their later retirement and pushing many into financial hardship.

“In Falkirk, 4900 women born between 1953 and 1960 have had their pensions delayed.

“They have lost out on around £42,000 on pension income and some have had as little as 18 months’ notice.

“That not only has an impact on women but the local economy as a whole.”

Since 2015, when WASPI was established, the group has demanded “fair, transitional arrangements” to be put in place for women aged between 60 and 66.

The campaign has successfully managed to keep up its momentum, attracting support from politicians and unions.

But Lorna believes next week could see the campaign reach a “pivotal point”.

On Wednesday, March 8, thousands of women will converge on Westminster for a mass protest outside the Houses of Parliament.

The date is not only International Women’s Day but also Budget Day and protestors will be making enough noise to be heard in the Commons chamber while Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his speech.

Lorna (60) said: “This is the second mass demonstration. The first attracted 2500 women from across the country. But this one will be bigger because more people know about it. The campaign has definitely kept up its momentum and it’s still there because so many people think it is so unfair.

“These changes take away the dignity and self-respect of women, because many are now in financial hardship.

“That’s why events like we held on Saturday are so important. Women came and shared their stories and talked openly about their circumstances.

“One lady told us she had to sell her house; others talked about financial difficulties. Where else could they have done that?

“They were talking to strangers about how the changes had affected them and they got support from women in the same situation.It was very empowering.”

Organised by Falkirk WASPI activist Anne Campbell, the meeting was the first of its kind and was attended by Provost Pat Reid and councillors Cecil Meiklejohn, David Alexander and Jim Blackwood.

The Central Scotland Regional Equality Council (CSREC) also attended the event.

Its manager Arun Gopinath said: “We strongly support the WASPI campaign for equality in the state pensions to women. All senior citizens deserve to be treated equally in the pensions they receive upon their retirement, irrespective of gender.

“We congratulate Lorna Binnie and her colleagues at WASPI Falkirk for hosting a successful and well attended coffee reception at Falkirk Trinity Church Hall on Saturday.

“The function helped generate public awareness of the urgent need for fair and just transitional pension arrangements for women. CSREC looks forward to supporting future WASPI events and activities in the Forth Valley as these directly are in line with our aims of promoting equality and fighting discrimination in the area.”

Now Falkirk WASPI is calling on more local women to make their voices heard and attend the London demonstration along with 10 local activists.

A WASPI spokeswoman said the aim of the event was to “bring the pensions plight of 1950s women to the government’s attention”.

She added: “We have worked hard all our lives, many of us from age 15, saved and supported ourselves. Now after a lifetime of doing the right thing, the government is taking away our security in retirement.”

The Department of Work and Pensions said it sent out 1.2 million letters in 1995 when the decision was first taken to equalise pensions and a further five million between 2011 and 2013.