Blog > A guide to the WASPI campaign

A guide to the WASPI campaign

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By Clare Yates • 24th May 2024 • 4 min read

What is the WASPI campaign and what are they fighting for?

Written in line with our editorial policy.

Women born in the 1950s have been fighting for years for compensation from the government. Why? Because they say that millions of them were not properly informed about the changes to the State Pension age. WASPI campaigners believe that those affected should receive financial compensation.

WASPI began back in 2015, when a group of women connected through Facebook to form what is known today as WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality. Their goal? To raise awareness of the struggles faced by what they say are 3.8 million women born in the 1950s  due to the State Pension age rising from 60 to 66 to bring it in line with men. 

WASPI aims to secure fair compensation and support for women negatively impacted by what they describe as poorly communicated changes to the State Pension age. They do this through advocacy, legal action and public awareness efforts.

Importantly, the WASPI website says the group agrees with equalisation between men and women when it comes to State Pension age. It is “the unfair way the changes were implemented” that they are unhappy about.

With the campaign now running for almost ten years, thousands of affected women have passed away before justice has been achieved. The group say that an estimated 270,000 women who should have been compensated have passed away without compensation or so much as an apology. The number continues to rise, with another WASPI woman dying every 13 minutes. 

How were these women treated unfairly? 

The key issues for the WASPI campaign centre around changes brought about by the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts.

The 1995 Pension Act introduced the government’s timetable to bring the State Pension age for women in line with men. It was revealed that the age that women would receive their State Pension would rise from 60 to 65 in phases between April 2010 and 2020.

This timetable was brought forward by the Pensions Act 2011, when the government revealed that the women’s State Pension age would in fact reach 65 by November 2018 and then 66 by October 2020.

WASPI argues that these changes were not properly communicated by the Department of Work and Pensions, so women couldn’t prepare themselves financially.

They say that the most affected were a group of around 300,000 women born between December 1953 and October 1954. They were very close to their 60th birthdays when they learned it would be an extra 18 months until they reached the new State Pension age.

Row over women’s State Pensions

According to WASPI, many women reported only receiving written communication one year or less from their expected State Pension Age of 60. 

It means that some were given just one year’s notice of up to a six-year increase to their State Pension age – and some receiving no written communication at all – resulting in financial hardship for those involved.

According to senior campaigners, some women took early retirement believing that they were just a couple of years from reaching their State Pension age. WASPI says that after walking away from their jobs, they found it very difficult to return to the workforce after learning about the change to their State Pension age.

Report from Ombudsman suggests compensation owed

On 21 March 2024 a Women’s State Pension Age report was released by the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman (PHSO), which investigates complaints about government departments.  

Following a five-year investigation, it offers a damming insight into the DWP’s conduct in terms of its communications over the State Pension age changes and subsequent complaint handling. 

The PHSO report says that it received complaints that changes to the State Pension age were not communicated well enough. It also noted that women had complained that this caused significant financial hardship for many women.

The report also said that “too many people did not understand their own situations and how the new State Pension affected them personally”. It also found that the complaints that were made weren’t adequately investigated by the DWP.

Will WASPI compensation be paid out now?

After finding the DWP guilty of ‘maladministration’ in its report, the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman went on to recommend that compensation payments of between £1,000 and £2,950 are given to women affected. Though a positive step, it is markedly less than the £10,000 that WASPI had been campaigning to secure for the worst affected. 

However, the government appears to be in no rush to agree to the lesser amount suggested by the report, as it is estimated that this would cost around £3.5billion to £10.5 billion. 

In addition, the PHSO does not have the authority to enforce any level of compensation from the DWP. Parliament must sign off on any agreement.

To help get this next step actioned, Parliament then held a crucial debate on 16 May centred on WASPI compensation.  MPs including the SNP’s Patricia Gibson called upon the DWP to make good its mistakes and put forward a compensation plan urgently. 

Just when things were starting to look up for the campaign, Rishi Sunak put the wheels in motion for a General Election on 4 July. With Parliament dissolved until a new government is formed, WASPI campaigners must wait to see what the winning party intends to offer them, if anything.

How to claim WASPI compensation 

If the new government agrees that WASPI  compensation should be paid, it will likely set out a plan for when the payments are to be made, along with the relevant eligibility criteria. It may also communicate, if applicable, how to claim WASPI compensation online. However, it may instead make any payments automatically, without any applications being required online or otherwise. 

You cannot currently register or sign up to receive updates or claim WASPI compensation. If you wish, you can join the WASPI campaign or stay up-to-date with their news by following WASPI on X/Twitter.

Frequently asked questions

What does Martin Lewis say about WASPI?

A public supporter of WASPI, Martin Lewis spoke about the campaign on his ITV show in February 2023. He said:

“The WASPI campaign has been going on a long time, it’s something I’ve supported. It all happened because in 1995 the pension age was extended and it wasn’t communicated and then it was extended again and it wasn’t communicated.”

Then on 8 February 2023, Martin Lewis supported WASPI at a protest at Parliament Square. He dropped by to make an announcement to crowds of women gathered there to raise awareness of their campaign. On the video which he later posted to his Twitter/X page, he said:

“It’s brilliant that you’re out here. You’ve got to keep up the fight… No matter how hard you protest, this is going to be a very, very tough fight, so get everybody you know to write to your MPs. Keep up the hard work and keep the pressure on!”

About Clare Yates. With over a decade’s experience writing about later life financial planning, Clare offers a wealth of knowledge about equity release, pension annuities, wills, LPAs and more. When she isn’t writing, Clare likes to spend her time baking and going on walks with her husband, two children and their rescue dog. Follow Clare on LinkedIn

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