Jedburgh woman hopes to raise awareness of pension age extension

WASPI singer Gail Chandler from Jedburgh, campaigning against the lack of communication from government about the equalisation of pension age for women.
WASPI singer Gail Chandler from Jedburgh, campaigning against the lack of communication from government about the equalisation of pension age for women.
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A Jedburgh resident who thought she would be retired by now has issued a rallying call to all women born in the 1950s.

Increases to the State Pension Age for women in the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts have seen a vast swathe of women across the country working an extra five years at least.

And while members of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agree with the equalisation, they are campaigning against the speed in which it has been introduced – which has left them with no time to make alternative financial plans – and the lack of communication from government departments about the changes.

Gail Chandler, 62, from Jedburgh, is trying to ensure as many women affected as possible are made aware that they will have to work longer, and is urging everyone to sign a petition asking the Government to “fair transitional arrangements”.

Gail said: “There are a lot of women in the affected age group [anyone born after April 6 1951 up until 1959] that do not have social media and have not heard of this.

“The law passed in 1995 extended the female retirement age to 65. An amendment came along in 2011 which added another 12-18 months to that.

“We don’t have a problem with the equalisation, it is just the scale and rate with which they have introduced the changes that we are campaigning against.

“The Government says it has informed everybody, but they can’t have, as there are far too many women who say they have heard nothing.

“I, myself, have never received any word from the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions).

“I was 60 in February 2014. I had that date printed on my brain since I started work.

“That was what I was expecting, until I met a lady at a Burns Supper in Glendouglas Hall, who told me I was the same as her and would not be getting a pension until I was 65-and-a-half.”

So Gail investigated it and found that she was one of hundreds of thousands of women who are affected.

She added: “I think the Government thought we would just accept it, as we are the first generation of women who worked as well as bring up children.

“It would not have mattered so much if the Government was open and fair about it, so that people would be in a mindset that they would have to work longer.

“But we don’t neccessarily have the capacity to put more money aside to compensate.”

She added that several European countries tackled the pension shortfall and inequality by extending women’s retirerment age to 63 while also dropping men’s to the same age.

Gail’s husband Tony, who is 61, fell ill a couple of years ago with heart and lung problems, and she says the prognosis is not good.

She said she wants to spend time with him now, while he still has mobility.

“I should have already been retired, in my mind. It’s just not sensible that I have to work now and then spend the rest of my life alone when he is no longer here,” she said.

“I’m absolutely passionate about this because I believe we have been dealt a very mean hand.”

Back in February, a friend in Perth sent her a link on Facebook, about a group of women who are campaigning against what is happening.

“I read all about WASPI on their Facebook page, and signed the e-petition right away [of which there are now more than 184,000 signatories].

“I also saw that they were looking at putting together a choir to sign their anthem.”

Gail was the only Scot to travel down to England to make a video anthem of the WASPI song and talk about her story.

She said: “I used the birthday money from my aunt to pay for the train ticket and I auctioned a gold bracelet to pay for the bed and breakfast.

“It took five hours to learn it, practice it and record it, and they interviewed us all so we could tell our own stories.”

To sign the e-petition, visit http://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110776

And to find out more about them, visit www.facebook.com/WASPI-Women-Against-State-Pension-Inequality-Campaign-877054125688402/

Watch the video of the women singing their anthem on our website: www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk