Northern Ireland

NI protests over 'no warning' in changes to state pension

Bernadette Friel
Image caption Bernadette Friel said WASPI are not opposed to equalisation of the state pension, but thousands of women were not told about about changes

Protests have taken place in Belfast and Londonderry against the way changes to the state pension age for women are being implemented.

It is claimed that 77,000 women in Northern Ireland have not been properly informed they will have to wait an extra six years to claim their pension.

That is according to the campaign group, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI).

The group said an "injustice" is being done to women affected by the changes.

Under the 1995 Pensions Act, the pension ages of men and women should be equalised by 2020.

In 2011 the state pension age for women was increased.

Previously women retired at 60, while men retired at 65.

Now women born between April 1951 and 1960 will not qualify for a pension until the age of 66, the same as men.

Injustice

Bernadette Friel, a spokesperson for WASPI in Northern Ireland, said they are not opposed to equalisation of the state pension, but that thousands of women were not told about about the changes.

"Some women were given two years notice or no notice", Ms Friel said.

"When I was 58 I had planned to retire at 60, I was then told I had to wait until I was 66 to retire, it was a big shock".

The events Belfast City Hall and the Guildhall in Derry involved WASPI members lobbying local politicians.

Ms Friel added: "There are still so many people who are not aware that they will not get their state pension at age 60".

WASPI said phasing in the changes was due to begin in 2010, and the year before that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) began to write to women affected.

But it said, to date, a huge number of people have still not been contacted.

'Transitional Arrangements'

WASPI are calling for "transitional arrangements" for those affected.

These "transitional arrangements" would take the form of a 'bridging' pension to provide an income until state pension age.

In a statement, the Department of Work and Pensions said the decision to equalise the state pension age achieved a long-overdue move towards gender equality.

"There are no plans to change the transitional arrangements already in place."

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