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WASPI and The Five Blind Men

The well-written and informative epistles by Frances Coppola, Henry Tapper, Joan Bakewell, Paul Lewis etc., remind me of the tale of the five blind men and the elephant:

 

“Five blind men stood in a ring around an elephant, and were asked to describe it. Each in turn reached out and touched the animal and declared it to be like a snake; rope; wall; tree and leaf”.

 

Individually, the blind men were all correct – in their own way. But whatever their perception of the elephant was, the fact remained that the poor beast was in danger of being killed by poachers.

 

Similarly, whatever each of the commentators’ version of the WASPI issue is, the indisputable fact remains that there will be victims of severe injustice and hardship. You could say that the “elephant in the room” is the fact that this situation should never have arisen in the first place as proper notice should have been given, and that we are only now reading and writing about it due to incompetence/negligence /laziness/arrogance by successive cabinets. (In fact, Steve Webb – former Pensions Minister – suggests the blame lies squarely with Labour; but then he would, wouldn’t he!).

The Pension Minister has no action for WASPI
PENSION MINISTER ROS ALTMANN

WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) has a lot in common with the Ark Class Action (ACA) which I represent. ACA consists of hundreds of victims of pension scams – most of which operated some form of pension liberation fraud between 2010 and 2015. The schemes include Ark, Capita Oak, Westminster, Evergreen, London Quantum and dozens more. Most of the victims have not only lost their personal or occupational pensions (to worthless, toxic investments such as store pods, car parks, eucalyptus plantations and offshore property), but are also facing crippling tax penalties for “liberating” their pensions.

 

I am no expert on the WASPI matter. But I am impressed with the various eloquent accounts of the history of State Pension Equalisation and technicalities of how National Insurance contributions fund the State pension. However, I am up to speed on pension scams – and it is clear that both situations have exactly the same results: poverty, despair and injustice. The victims of pension scams were told that the Ark/Capita Oak/London Quantum etc. pension schemes they were transferring to were safe because they were registered by HMRC and the Pensions Regulator and were therefore “approved”. They were also told they could get “loans” from their pensions and that there would be no tax implications as these loans legally exploited legitimate tax loopholes. Many WASPI’s, on the other hand, were told nothing by the government – until it was too late to do anything to mitigate the unexpected extra six years they would have to exist without a State pension.

The government is effectively the trustee of the State Pension and should therefore abide by the same “fit for purpose” standards expected of all pension trustees. British citizens will simply not stand for the State Pension being run on “Ponzi” principles. What worries me is how many pension scam victims are in the WASPI boat – so are likely to drown not once; not twice; but three times at the hands of government incompetence.

 

What I find hardest to swallow is the claim by the government and various commentators that those affected should have known – or should have taken steps to find out – what their State Pension age was (in plenty of time). Maybe; maybe not. All I can say is that I didn’t know (born November 1954). I have never received any notification from the DWP. Funnily enough, I was at the offices of the DWP on 8th December with two Ark victims – so somebody could have mentioned it to me then (although Ros Altmann was rather too busy hiding and waiting for the security guard to usher us off the premises to say anything very much).

 

But irrespective of whether I (and all the others in the same boat) knew, should have known, should have checked, were given enough notice etc., the question remains unanswered:

 

“what are we going to live on for the next six years?”

 

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that we did all know jolly well (and had plenty of notice) and now we are joining the WASPI campaign just for the sake of it (bored with knitting clubs): how are we going to eat/live? Some women might be able to work. Some might not for a variety of reasons including health or availability of suitable employment.

 

I know the argument has been put forward that the WASPI campaign is futile because there is “no money down the back of the sofa” to help victims through the transition period. So, what do we do? Go away quietly and starve? Perhaps Angela Merkel will take us in to save us from cardboard city under the railway arches.

 

Personally, I think it is all a bit of a shame. We are a significant generation which saw the transition from post-WW2 austerity to the re-building of our nation – to which we all contributed in our different ways. I was a child from an orphanage, lucky enough to be adopted by a father who never spoke about his years in the RN as an Asdic operator and a mother who never spoke about her years in West London as an ambulance driver. And I think I deserve better – as do all the WASPI’s.

 

I remain perplexed by Ros Altmann’s refusal to engage with the WASPI campaign (or the Ark Class Action – campaigning against pension scams). Is she really just a puppet in the hands of the silver-tongued Iain Duncan-Smith? Or is there a darker force at work? Altmann once marched in the streets in support of pensioners’ rights but is now refusing to acknowledge the injustice of the failure by government to give adequate notice of the change to State Pension age.

 

Whatever the rights, wrongs, technicalities and “elephantologies” of the WASPI situation are, this government in general – and Ros Altmann/Iain Duncan-Smith et al in particular – are likely to go down in history as the thieves and scoundrels who sold the elephants up the river. Steve Webb – Pensions Minister under the previous Coalition government – has pretty much admitted as much.

The Waspi in the Room

The WASPI campaign has collected an impressive 100,000 signatures on the petition to have the issue debated in the House of Commons in a very short period. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110776

Indeed, Mhairi Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, will be raising the matter on Thursday 7th January. The campaign has also succeeded in conducting very effective Facebook and Twitter campaigns and getting press coverage such as the Sunday Post’s one on 3rd January 2016:

 

https://www.sundaypost.com/news/uk-news/betrayed-by-pension-reforms-thousands-of-women-left-desperate-as-changes-force-them-to-keep-working/

 

So, back to the elephant in the room: remember when I handed evidence of multi billion pound pension scams to HMRC/government back in June 2014? And nobody (not HMRC; not the Pensions Regulator; not the government) did anything about it? And Police officers and Armed Forces personnel lost their Police and Army pensions to the scammers as a result? Well, I’ve got all the evidence as to where the scammers’ assets are (including one government consultant). So, with just a little effort from the government and HMRC, sufficient tax from serial tax evaders/pension scammers could be collected to facilitate an elegant transition for the WASPI’s without disturbing the sofa at all.

 

Angie Brooks

Chairman, Ark Class Action

www.pension-life.com

 

WASPI is an action group that was formed by five ordinary women who are personally affected by the changes to the State Pension Age and wanted to do something to address this injustice. WASPI was set up in April 2015 to petition against pension legislation changes in the State Pension Law. Having raised £6,000 via Crowdjustice (the first litigation crowdfunding platform in the UK), in a matter of days WASPI are in the process of establishing if there is a legal case to challenge the Government in respect of little or no notification of the changes to the SPA in 1995 and 2011. https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/women-seeking-pension-justice/

19 thoughts on “WASPI and The Five Blind Men”

  1. Brilliant Angie. I agree the arguments of blame can go on and on -and exactly – if we knew, what did we think we were going to live on for the next six years? Seems we were all suffering in silence (well almost, my two children didn’t know how to comfort me). I have been wracking my brain as to how to survive without my pension – what do I sell? I’ve already down-sized, is the next step a one bedroom flat? I don’t know, but this six year stretch seems a climb to far. I do know though that WASPI have done an amazing job bringing us all together. Someone knows something, and the more I think about it the darker it gets. Everyone’s stress levels are up, WASPI leaders, Waspi women, people who did not expect to be in this place at this time of their lives, and are not accustomed to the way those that are accustomed to it, deal with things. But also those who are, now seem to be feeling the effects of entering a world of ordinary people that are fearful. It is perplexing, as you say. The Elephant has to addressed – I just wish we could address it together.

    1. This will be a long and bitter battle. 100k+ signatures was just the start and there will be many more hurdles to jump before we get anywhere. But we have no choice other than to keep fighting. Angie

  2. Lyn Leicestershire

    I had 8 months notice of NO SPA I am facing 6 yrs of ESA poverty as to unwell to work I live alone and quite frankly feel life is not worth continuing.I have worked hard have over 8 yrs more NI contributions than I need but have to wait 6 yrs. I feel utterly betrayed

    1. We all feel betrayed. Thats why this fight must be fought with determination and tenacity. And it will be! Angie

    2. I agree the same for me if there are any groups in Leicestershire I would love
      To join in any action,s protests ect?

  3. Divorced a conman in 2008 who took half the equity in MY house which I bought as my “pension” – now conned again out of my State Pension. No income and forced to keep on working until I drop. Thanks DWP. Shame on you.

    1. Sadly, Altmann and Duncan-Smith are way too arrogant to show any proper shame for a situation they did not entirely cause, but should have put right. Angie

  4. What the Government has done has effectively sentenced me to struggle, and also my husband who now has to keep working until he is 72yrs until I can draw my pension. Robin hood is alive and well stealing from the poor hard working people of this country.

    1. Sadly many people are condemned to poverty because of this debacle. Not a very caring government this one – especially for all those who have worked all their lives and deserve to be treated with more respect and consideration. Angie

  5. When Robert Maxwell ran off with his pensioners money the government set up the pension protection fund. As it’s our own government that has run off with our money who is going to help us?

    1. Very good point. Lets see how Mhairi Black gets on and hope she will put Ros Altmann and Iain Duncan-Smith to shame. Angie

  6. Excellent article – I was born Sept 53 and only notification I received from DWP was Jan 2012 advising me that I would not receive my pension until March 2018. At that point I expected to receive pension when I reached 62 but later discovered there had been a previous increase to pension age to 63 and a half years. I contacted Ros Altman more than a year ago and while she sympathised she said at least I would qualify for new SP but on requesting a forecast was advised my pension would be £120 rather than the £148 as I had a works pension and had been contracted out! This was news to me as did not know at that time what contracted out meant. I am a WASPI supporter and hope that we are successful in our bid for justice for ALL those affected by the 2011 acceleration to pension age.

    1. Don’t forget to watch the debate with Mhairi Black tomorrow in the House of Commons. I never got any notification from DWP at all – born Nov 1954. But then many people got nothing at all. Angie

  7. Mariana Robinson

    Good article. I’m in the same boat as many others. Started work at 17, looked after my disabled son day and night for 21 years and carried on working. Still working but suffering ill health and took a 10 year fixed mortgage out to provide my son with a home and me with business premises in 2006. At that time I was told I would retire at 62. I would sell the business, pay off the debt and get my SP. 2011 Act changed all that and in such an unfair way compared to the pension dates of my peers. There’s no logic. No information was sent and now I don’t know what I can do. At 62 I just can’t get another mortgage or extend this one because I’m told I’m too old and don’t earn enough, even though I’ve never missed a payment. So, at the end of my working life, having saved the country thousands in caring for my son, I don’t know where I can find the money and by the end of this year I could be homeless. Yes, I have the business asset, but if I sell that, I have no work for the next four years. It’s monstrously unfair and unjust. I’m very depressed and my health is suffering with the worry.

  8. And what about all the men who have to wait till 66? Who is speaking up for us? With a bridging pension ending on my 65th Birthday, how does one fill the gap? Duncan-Smith was supposed to be about getting people off benefits not putting them on benefits and Altman has changed her tune since receiving the boot!
    This is a disgrace, moving the goal posts when already retired simply won’t do! Well done Peter Bone, please follow through…

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