Women are the backbone of many local communities and often don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Whether it’s keeping families afloat, or caring for friends and relatives, or running local community groups – often on top of many other responsibilities – their contribution is sometimes taken for granted.
That’s not to say that men aren’t just as giving with their time and compassion. But, historically, women have gained less recognition for it – particularly when it comes to financial recognition.
Many women choose to take on the vitally important job of caring for their children. Even today, that can mean sacrificing career ambitions to do so.
Back in previous decades it was even harder – with no automatic right to parental leave or the guarantee of a job or equal pay when you returned from maternity leave.
That’s why it’s so important that our society recognises the contribution that these women have made. Sadly, there is a situation developing which unfairly targets women who are coming towards retirement age.
It was highlighted to me by a constituent I met last week. Let’s call her Mary.
She had stumbled across an article in a newspaper about women who were born in the 1950s who are now having to wait many more years than expected before they can claim their pension.
Mary did a double take and realised “that’s me they’re talking about!”
Amazed that she had not heard about this earlier, Mary did some digging and discovered that she was one of hundreds of thousands of women in this situation. The campaign has been highlighted by a new group set up by women who have been affected, called WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality.
This pension bombshell has come about because of the changes brought in to equalise the pension ages – so that men and women retire at the same age.
Whilst this is the right thing to do, the coalition government moved the goalposts in 2011 and accelerated the rise in women’s state pension age. This has meant that some women did not have enough notice of changes and could not plan for their new circumstances, leaving them in real difficulty.
Even worse, many of them say they have never received any official notification from the government about this.
The former pensions minister Steve Webb has admitted that the last government made a “bad decision” on changes to the State Pension age, but he said that by the time they realised the implications “it had gone too far”.
That is simply not good enough. My Labour colleagues and I will continue to push the Government to urgently reconsider these changes. We want them to introduce transitional controls that support women born in the 1950s to avoid the hardship associated with the changes in the state pension age.
These women have supported our communities for decades. Now we need to support them.
If you want to check out when you will retire and what your pension is likely to be visit the Government website which has a useful calculator and explain more: www.gov.uk/state-pension-statement