“If you were to think of being robbed by anybody, you would not think it would be your own government.”
A Waspi woman says she and her two sisters lost a total of £120,000 between them due to a hike in the state pension age when they were not expecting it.
Mary Waterhouse, 70, who now is on crutches and unable to walk unaided owing to severe osteoarthritis, says her condition worsened after she was forced to work until the age of 65. This was after the government controversially moved women’s state pension age to 65, now 66, in order to equalise it between the sexes, with many affected women saying they did not get enough notice to prepare and that they suffered huge financial, health and emotional effects as a result.
The mum of three and grandmother of six says her illness was exacerbated by having to struggle on working as a carer, despite feeling ill and fearing the sack due to her illness. She found out about the change at the age of 58, when she received a letter informing her of it.
Due to the fact that her husband had just been made redundant, and also to the fact that she says she was completely unaware that there were laws obliging employers to make adjustments on the grounds of disability – and also of any benefits available – Mary struggled on as a carer for half a decade beyond the age that she had originally planned to retire.
Mary, from Thornton-Cleveleys, told LancsLive: “They sent me a letter and that’s how I found out that I could not retire at 60. My husband had been made redundant and could not get another job, as everybody said he was too old, aged 59, so I had to keep on working until the age of 65.
“I worked for 50 years, in a bakery and in our own sweet shop which we had to sell in the end during the last recession. Then I worked as a carer. I walk around on crutches because of my knees; my health problems have been exacerbated by working until 65.”
Also a sufferer of asthma, Mary was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2015, and began suffering with knee problems three years ago. She believes that this has been partly caused by her walking from house to house as a carer until five years ago, and says she is now awaiting further treatment.
She told LancsLive: “I have worked as all sorts, for 50 years, in a bakery and we had our own sweet shop. My last profession was as a carer, but it honestly got to the point where anyone looking in from the outside would have thought, who’s the carer and who’s the cared for?
“I used to walk around to go to work, and I used a walking stick – if I saw anyone, I was frightened of getting the sack. I didn’t know they had to do workplace adjustments and I never applied for benefits. I was trying to keep us going and I was so frightened that if I did anything, I would get the sack; I could not afford to get the sack so I would keep going.
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“When I was 64, my car was written off, but still I walked to everybody’s house. I was determined to keep going, even though I could not walk.”
A diagnosis of osteoarthritis followed at the age 64 and eventually, Mary says it emerged that she had no bone cartilage in her knee, so she is now awaiting further treatment. She said: “I don’t think the younger generation realises, because the government tries to promote that you can wait until you’re 70 to retire, but arthritis is not going to take that – it doesn’t care what the government says.
“I’ve never claimed benefits in my entire life – I’m not one of these people who have sat back and let everybody look after me, but now I think it should be time for me. I had to go and get a pair of crutches from a charity shop. I’m in a lot of pain, and I can’t go out for a walk.
“They can talk as much as they like about equality, but we’re not equal at all; women are not equal and older people are not equal. When I was younger, the men would not tell the women what they earned; they were told not to tell the women what they earned, so you could never find out what a man was earning, in the same profession as you.
“I started suffering from arthritis the year before I left. Lately, I’ve applied for attendance allowance, and they’ve been so rude, I’ve torn the form up and thrown it in the bin. They make out that millions of people are not applying, but then they make it so hard to get it. If you’ve got any amount of pride, you chuck it in the bin. You’ve got to be practically dying to get attendance allowance.
“Every way we turn we can’t get anything; we never qualify for anything.”
Mary’s sister Susan Dutton, 67, of Poulton-le Fylde, worked as a swimming instructor, while her younger sister Norma Elkington, 64, of Cleveleys, is a former nurse who is now wheelchair bound due to a medical condition. Mary estimates that between the three of them, they have lost around £120,000 due to the increase in the state pension age for women.
“Between the three of us, it must have cost us about £120,000 that we have lost. That’s a lot of money. The last person you would think would rob you of all this money would be your own government. If you were to think of being robbed by anybody, you would not think it would be your own government.
“It’s a terrible example of age discrimination, combined with misogyny, that has resulted in this, and you’ve got these poor women having to sell their houses and sleep in cars, and some committing suicide.
“I qualified as a baker when I left school and my husband would go out to work at seven o’clock in the morning, I would have my three children all day, I would take them to school and everything, then he’d come home and I would go straight to work from six until ten in the biscuit factory; I did that for ten years. There was no childminder or nursery care in those days, because the wages were so low. What else could we do?
“It has cost my health, and what they have done is not equality. Every woman over 60 or coming up to 60 needs to stand up and demonstrate. All these grandmas that used to look after the children for their daughters that are working are not able to do that anymore because they need to earn their own living, so that’s going to have a knock on effect.
“It’s like my generation are being picked on constantly, wherever we turn, so we have to go around cap in hand trying to get money, like the council tax reduction, free glasses, dental treatment. I worked all my life for 50 years, so why should I have to go around cap in hand to these different government departments, begging for help?
“We need to fight; it’s no good a few of us going to these meetings and standing outside screaming at the end of the day. We need more women to stand up for themselves , because if you can’t stand up for yourself, nobody else is going to stand up for you. We paid in, now you pay out; that’s my message to the government.”
It’s understood more than 3.5m women had been expecting to retire at the age of 60 and were unaware until the last minute that they would have to work on for half a decade more than they had expected before getting the state pension. Campaigners say the average 1950s born woman lost up to £50,000 as a result, and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman judged last summer that the DWP was guilty of ‘maladministration’ for failing to give women born from 1950 notice of the change and said it should have written to affected women earlier.
In a dramatic update this week, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman revealed that it was speeding up the second stage of its investigation into the move to raise women’s state pension age to 65, now 66.. It said it would publish its suggested remedy and findings simultaneously to minimise complainants’ wait to find out what the remedy should be.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We support millions of people each year and our priority is ensuring everyone receives a compassionate service and the financial support to which they are entitled. The Government decided over 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. Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.”
- 05:45, 18 AUG 2022