The UK coronavirus epidemic has caused devastation, with more than 16,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK having now sadly died. Stringent lockdown measures announced more than a month ago, with the crisis leading to a huge financial impact too – something which is demonstrated by the surge in claims for Universal Credit.
Now, the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign is calling on the Government to take urgent action to help WASPI women who have been badly affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 and are experiencing greater financial hardship as a result.
The campaign group is calling on the Government to make two urgent changes.
The first is the suggestion to give WASPI women who would otherwise be eligible for Pension Credit early access to the means-tested benefit.
WASPI says that this group, including some of the poorest WASPI women living in the UK, are currently falling through the gaps as their income is low, but they can’t access other support like Universal Credit.
The second change WASPI is calling for is to ensure early access to the state pension for WASPI women due to reach state pension age this financial year.
According to WASPI, the move would mean that the Government would not have to support these women through other measures during the crisis, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or benefits.
Announcing the new campaign, WASPI’s Campaign Director, Chrissie Lord said: “Every day, we hear heart-breaking stories from our members about how the current situation is affecting them.
“We’re increasingly concerned about the disproportionate impact the outbreak is having on 1950s born women.
“Like others, many WASPI women are seeing a significant impact on their livelihoods as a result of income uncertainty and difficulties accessing affordable food and other essentials.
“For women who were already in serious financial difficulty as a result of mismanagement of changes to the state pension age, the impact is huge.
“This all adds up to reports of poverty amongst WASPI women who were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic.
“Those who are hardest hit have been unable to retire as planned, and are now unable to work.
“We have always campaigned for fair transitional arrangements for all women affected by the WASPI issue, and we will continue to work towards this aim.
“However, in these exceptional circumstances we have taken the decision to campaign urgently for vital support specifically for those who have been impacted the most severely.
“WASPI women have fallen through the cracks too many times before. It is time for the Government to act to ensure that WASPI women who are struggling to make ends meet are protected and supported.”
The state pension age is currently rising.
In the past, it previously stood at 65 for men and 60 for women, however changes under the Pensions Act 1995 and the Pensions Act 2011, saw it reach 65 for both men and women in November 2018.
Now, the state pension age is rising, with it set to reach 66 by October 2020 – ahead of further changes to 67 and then 68.
An increase to the state pension age will see people born between July 6, 1954 and August 5, 1954 reach state pension age next month.
On May 6, 2020, these people will reach their state pension age.