KATE OSBORNE MP: Conservatives are failing women and playing politics with real lives

This callous Conservative Government has shown a consistent and blatant ignorance when it comes to women’s issues. They are failing women and playing politics with real lives.
WASPI campaigners protesting against the changes to the State Pension Age affecting women born in the 1950s.WASPI campaigners protesting against the changes to the State Pension Age affecting women born in the 1950s.
WASPI campaigners protesting against the changes to the State Pension Age affecting women born in the 1950s.

​For women born in the 1950’s this callousness impacts them every single day, from being denied health treatment, to worries about social care and of course the devastating impact the hike in the pension age has caused them.

The reality is women continue to be treated as second class citizens by this Government and many politicians. I have spoken to many women in our Jarrow constituency, in the North of England and nationwide about the anguish and hardship the pensions issue has caused them, not least the issue with lack of communication to women born in the 1950’s that their pension age was increasing but that they still even today receive a lower state pension. The Gender Pay Gap has not been tackled and neither has the Gender Pensions gap.

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We see more women living in poverty, women facing the brunt of the cuts and cost of living crisis, a gender health gap and so much more.

This month saw a major victory for the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign scored a major victory in their long-running fight for justice when the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) announced that it has told the Government to compensate women for failing to adequately inform them that their State Pension age was delayed – yet the suggested compensation was between one and three thousand pound.

These significant findings fully justify the many years of campaigning by the WASPI group who have fought tirelessly against this gross injustice.

This lowly amount is nowhere near sufficient to cover their loss let alone compensation. The Ombudsman asked Parliament to intervene and swiftly set up a compensation scheme, this should be done – but they need to urgently look at the compensation.

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The North East has seen 65,000 women affected by state pension changes, with an estimated 11,000 in the South Tyneside area alone. It is a disgrace that these women were not adequately informed about the change in good time, because the more time you have to plan for retirement, the better.

Almost four million women in the UK missed out on vital State Pension payments, so it is of no surprise that the campaign continues to garner public support across the country.

This is a vile injustice that should not be left to slip through the cracks of an already sinking Government.

During last year’s Spring Budget debate I called on the Government to bring forward a compensation package for women born in the 1950s who were affected by the changes to their State Pension age.

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The Minister responded: “Well I don’t accept that. I think the WASPI issue has been covered many times by Ministers from the Department of Work and Pensions and elsewhere”.

This statement has never been more laughable than now. The most recent PHSO report’s key finding was that failure by the Department of Work and Pensions to adequately inform thousands of women that their State Pension Age had changed constitutes maladministration.

The findings of maladministration arose on two accounts; firstly in inadequate provision of information and secondly regarding poor treatment of complaints. As such, the DWP must acknowledge its failings and issue a full apology for the direct impact it has had on complainants and others similarly affected.

They also made it fundamentally clear that the PHSO has no confidence whatsoever in the DWP to resolve this issue, so much so that they have laid their report before Parliament, subsequently requesting MPs to identify a mechanism for providing an appropriate remedy for those who have suffered.

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This unprecedented action proves two things: the significance of the wrongdoing committed, and the urgent need to act now.

As representatives of the very victims that this injustice has affected, now should not be the time for MPs to be silent. All MPs should be vocal in calling for justice.

The fight for justice for WASPI women will continue.

Many of the wronged women born in the 1950’s have already died, as of March 2024, an estimated 270,000 WASPI women have died since the start of the campaign in 2014, no one should wait any longer and I will be pushing for Ministers to take action and urgently deliver justice for the WASPI women.

Does this Tory Government need another TV drama to slap them into action?

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Is that what it takes for a Conservative Government to take notice – to be shamed?

They should be shamed and they should be ashamed of the way they are treating our pensioners.

Women deserve better than this Government.

Current – and future – pensioners deserve better. The country as a whole deserves better than this Government.