New update for WASPI women as Labour urged to commit to ‘fair and fast’ State Pension age compensation

Leading WASPI campaigners (Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign) from around the country have written to Sir Keir Starmer demanding he makes a firm commitment to ‘fair and fast’ compensation for women impacted by changes to the State Pension age. WASPI estimates that around 3.6m women born in the 1950s were plunged into poverty when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to properly inform them that the official age of retirement was rising.

After a six-year investigation, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) published its final report on March 21 which said that the DWP failed to adequately communicate changes to women’s State Pension age, and those affected are owed compensation. As a result of its findings, the Ombudsman asked Parliament to intervene and “act swiftly” to make sure a compensation scheme is established.

But then Rishi Sunak called a General Election and motions for a compensation plan were put on hold.

Before the General Election was called, MPs unanimously backed a motion for compensation in the Commons and the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee set out the parameters for a scheme where those worst affected would be compensated most.

Speaking in April 2023, Sir Keir Starmer said that WASPI women “have been put in an awful position, a position they shouldn’t be put in. It’s a huge injustice.” But questioned again during the election trail, the WASPI campaign said he refused to back compensation and said he would only “look at” the issue after July 4th.

WASPI says that represents a ‘betrayal’ after nine years of campaigning when Labour MPs have stood in photographs, sympathising and calling on Conservative ministers to offer redress to those whose lives were ‘turned upside down’ by DWP’s failures.

Following Starmer’s response, some 34 WASPI co-ordinators representing UK communities from Dundee and Northumberland to Devon and Sussex have signed an open letter demanding Labour commits to compensation.

With a general election in 30 days, and an average of 5,500 WASPI women in every constituency looking to vote for a party that commits to compensation, WASPI women are concerned that “as Labour gets closer to power, its commitment to us ebbs”.

Open letter to Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer

The letter from WSAPI states: “It seems that you are asking us to make a leap of faith that when you look at the Ombudsman’s recommendations, you will agree to the compensation scheme WASPI women are due.”

“We are sure you can appreciate that it’s just not good enough. On no other issue in the election, are you asking voters to hope for the best. We presume your manifesto will set out clear plans on everything from defence to local government. It must do the same for WASPI women.”

In recent polling, some 68 per cent of the public said that successive governments got things wrong and fair and fast compensation should now be paid to all the women affected.

The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party have all made pledges to ensure WASPI women are properly compensated.

Commenting on the letter, Angela Madden, Chair of the WASPI Campaign, said: “We have always had good support from Labour backbenchers and the party promised a very generous compensation scheme at the last election. But the closer they get to power, the further they seem to drift from any serious commitment to 1950s-born women.

“WASPI has fought a nine year campaign, often with Labour MPs standing in pictures and smiling with us. But the warm words and sympathy are of limited value if the party won’t promise to help us in government. It would be a huge betrayal for them to walk away now.

“Just as money has rightly been found for the victims of the Post Office and infected blood scandals, the awful position 1950s women have been put in must be recognised and compensation paid.

“All we’re asking for is that the Labour manifesto is clear on compensation for WASPI women. In a democracy, people deserve to know what they’re voting for.”

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Sir Stephen Timms (Labour), wrote to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride in May, pushing for a compensation timetable to be announced before the parliamentary summer recess on July 23.

However, all parliamentary business ended on May 30 ahead of the General Election on July 4.