Published On: Sat, Feb 25th, 2023

‘Crying writing this’: Waspi woman’s heart-rending plea for justice weeks before dying | Personal Finance | Finance

Waspi stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice, a campaign group that represents around 3.8million women who were hit by moves to increase their retirement age to bring it into line with men.

They say they were not given sufficient warning of the change, which meant that instead of retiring at 60, they would have to work on to 65 or 66.

Many suffered severe hardship as a result, as they did not have time to plan and make up the income shortfall.

Campaigners were given a boost in July 2021, when the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman accused the Department for Work & Pensions of “maladministration”.

It said the DWP should have written individual letters to affected women 28 months before it finally acted.

Now Waspi women are making one final push to be heard as they await the Ombudsman’s final decision on what compensation they are due.

As campaigners fight to make their voices hear, they have released the final heartbreaking statement by Waspi campaigner Kath Ritchie to, with the permission of her grieving family.

Kath was born in 1956 and worked in a number of jobs from the age of 15, including teaching, until she was too ill to carry on. She died last year of Lewy body dementia, the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

In her statement, she highlights the injustice done to millions of Waspi women, or as she calls them, “her sisters”.

Kath wrote: “I am 65 next month, and it is very doubtful that I will be around to receive my pension, even though I have worked since I was 15.

“I’m not the only one, I am not wanting to be special. We need to be heard.

“I had to retire last year as having a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. It has already ravaged my body and I am inconsolable. I am crying writing this, I cry every day, I can’t help it.

“Why do I have to rely on benefits to live? I just want what’s mine.

“I’m having an end-of-life plan made tomorrow. I’ve had to leave my home and go to a place for people who need help. I pay for this!

“I know what this disease means for me. I am already suffering. I also know what I have to come. I watched my father die of Lewy body dementia. It was the most traumatic time of my life.

“I know how it will end. There is nothing that can be done. I’m so angry that I and my sisters have been robbed.

“I know I am angry, but this is a fiasco.

“Do what we are asking and give us what we deserve, what is owed to us. It is not going to stop my fate, but at least I can die knowing I made a difference. 

“Bless you my sisters, and I am so proud of your perseverance. God bless you.”

Waspi campaigners have arranged their next gathering, the 1950s Women’s National Rally, at the Millicent Fawcett statue in Westminster, London on March 8 at midday.

The Waspi rally was the idea of Kay Clarke, co-founder of campaign group Pension Partners for Justice (PP4J) and founder of 1950sWOW (Women of Wales).

It is a cross-group event uniting all the different 1950s women’s organisations fighting state pension age changes, not just Waspi.

Kay is fighting on despite reaching pension age herself and suffering a heart attack, which she suspects was triggered from the stress of battling the DWP since 2015.

READ MORE: Martin Lewis voices support for Waspi generation of state pensioners

Waspi campaigner Dee Wild expects “the biggest rally we’ve had for years”, with thousands attending. Many who are too ill to make the journey are donating to fund the fares of women on low incomes.

Former Pensions Minister Baroness Ros Altmann, who recently said she resigned due to being gagged over publicly defending 1950s women, is one of those due to speak.

Lord Prem Sikka, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have all pledged to attend.

On the same day, the APPG will hear an update on progress with the Ombudsman, so Waspi will have a presence inside and outside of Parliament, Wild said.

Wild will also make a speech which will include Kath’s words and a statement from her son Clayton Lee Ritchie.

He describes his mother as “a single parent who despite the barriers woman face, grabbed every opportunity, worked every day and was cruelly let down at the end of her life”.

Wild said at last count more than 200,000 women have died before receiving a single penny of the state pension, and the total could soon hit 250,000.

She said Kath’s final message makes the personal impact of these deaths heartbreakingly real and a Waspi victory would be a wonderful legacy.

The DWP has consistently stated the decision was made to lift the state pension age for women was made by Parliament more than 25 years ago.

It has since been back to both by the High Court and Court of Appeal, with the Supreme Court refusing permission to appeal.

Waspi campaigners have now launched a fresh appeal to fund a High Court judicial review against the Ombudsman’s investigation into the issue.

If successful, this could delay a definitive Ombudsman ruling, which was expected this spring.

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