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Sidmouth campaigner: ‘Women’s state pension change has cost me £36,000’

16:01 08 February 2016

Archant

More than 145,000 people have signed national petition to make transitional arrangements fair

Campaigners in Sidmouth have vowed to keep fighting ‘draconian’ changes to women’s state pensions - which some say mean a personal loss of £36,000.

The speed at which the Government has implemented new rules to bring women’s pensionable age into line with men’s has sparked widespread anger and a national petition has gained more than 145,000 signatures to date.

Some people born in the 1950s face a six-year wait and say they did not even receive prior notification.

Following an article in the Herald last month, strength of feeling has mobilised men and women in the town to unite - and residents say they will not stop campaigning until the Government concedes to make transitional arrangements fair.

Fran Lee, of All Saints Road, said: “I was born in 1954 and worked for 38 years as a social worker. Before that, I was a teacher from the age of 21 and worked in part-time jobs while I was qualifying. I initially got a letter saying that due to the pension age change I would be 63 before I could claim it.

“I thought that’s not too bad, then I was absolutely gobsmacked to get a letter to say it would be 66. I have lost around £36,000.

“It’s horrendous. I could not carry on as a social worker because it’s very stressful, so I retired from my career and I have had to get a part-time job. It was fair the first time [the initial age increase to 63 implemented in 2011], but this is very draconian.”

Julie Davies and Jenny Velterop are both affected by the changes to state pension ages and said they are not against equality with men, but are angry about the way in which the process has been implemented.

The pair have done their own research and concluded that, although changes are being implemented in countries across Europe, none show as steep a rise as is being imposed in the UK.

A number of constituents went to East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire with their concerns.

Julie, of Culver Gardens, said: “I felt he certainly did not appear to have a grasp on the effect it has on men and women, because it affects both in a couple.”

She also raised the issue of regional discrimination in eligibility for bus passes – which for women in the most of the UK shifted in line with pensions, but in London, Ireland and Scotland the age is still 60.

Fellow campaigner Yvonne Rautenbach agrees that the bus pass age hike is also hitting women unfairly. She said: “Across the UK, the concession varies and I think it is unfair. My husband is 62, waiting for a hearing aid and does not drive far now and I have never been a driver.

“A bus pass at 60 would be far more life giving to me than free prescriptions to be honest - maybe we should have a choice.”

In last week’s Herald, MP Mr Swire said that while he understands concerns about the pace of change, the Government has taken measures to mitigate the impact on the worst affected - and alternative arrangements would bring ‘inordinate’ costs to the taxpayer.

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