WASPI's fight for justice over pension age changes - inspires new play to be premiered in Chesterfield

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Campaigning women who are fighting for justice after changes in the State Pension age disrupted their lives have inspired a new play to be premiered in Chesterfield.

Members of North Derbyshire WASPI have shared their frank and poignant stories with writer Lynn Ludditt who has scripted the play Stung. They are among thousands of women born in the Fifties who weren’t kept up to speed by two shifts in the State Pension age.

Angela Madden, who lives near Chesterfield and chairs The WASPI Campaign nationwide, is among members of the cast. She made the decision to give up work early when she was nearly 55, expecting to be able to start drawing her State Pension at 60. Angela said: “My mother was very needy at the time, and I calculated that I could afford to give up work to spend time with her. If I had known that my State Pension age had changed, I would have made a different decision. I would have perhaps reduced my hours rather than giving up work completely. That way my savings would have lasted until my new retirement age of 65 years and 9 months - rather than having to manage for five years until my retirement as I had thought, I had to manage for nearly 11 years! The whole experience since I received my letter in March 2012 has had a dreadful effect on me emotionally, and on my mental well-being.

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"We are hoping that telling our story in the form of this amazing play will resonate with people, who may then join us if they are 1950s born women, or support our calls for compensation in any way that they can e.g. by letting their MP know that they support us and agree we deserve compensation.”

Stung will be performed at West Studios, Chesterfield, on March 4 and 5, 2023.Stung will be performed at West Studios, Chesterfield, on March 4 and 5, 2023.
Stung will be performed at West Studios, Chesterfield, on March 4 and 5, 2023.

In the play, Angela is cast as a wife who is just approaching the revised State Pension age but not able to stop working because she has a sick husband to look after. She says: “The characters are all played by WASPI women, and reflect all WASPI women. We are hoping that telling our story in this way will resonate with people in the same circumstances as we find ourselves, and let them know that working together for a cause, and supporting each other is the way forward.”

Funded by the Arts Council, the play is directed by Carole Copeland with musical direction by Rob Laughlin. Stung will be performed at West Studios, Chesterfield, on March 4 at 3pm and 7pm and on March 5 at 2pm.

The play follows the journey of women from Bolsover, Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire whose lives were affected by the changes. They were among thousands of women all over the country who started working at 15 years old in the late 1960s and early 1970s and thought they would retire with a State Pension at 60 like generations before them.

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However, the Government decided in 1995 to equalise the State Pension age for all to 65. In 2011, the Government needed to save even more money, so changed the State Pension age again, this time to 66 for both men and women.

Many women didn’t receive letters informing them of the changes until they were 58 or 59 years old, expecting to retire at 60. Many had already made decisions earlier that were hard to reverse. When they finally received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) telling them about the changes, they were devastated.

But, you can’t keep a group of strong, determined women down for long. Women from all over the country got together and formed campaign groups under the WASPI banner to tell the government exactly what they thought about the changes.

Their fight is ongoing as WASPI calls on the government to agree fair and fast compensation for all women affected by the lack of notice regarding the State Pension age increases that will reflect their financial losses and the sustained damage to their mental health and well-being.

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Angela Madden, who is also finance director for The Waspi Campaign and local group co-ordinator for North Derbyshire WASPI, said: “We have already made one gain - in July 2021 the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found that the DWP did commit maladministration when communicating (or not) the changes to the State Pension age for women. We reiterate that we aren't seeking full restitution, but compensation for the significant harm we endured as a result of the DWP's failings. The PHSO is due to deliver his final report and recommendations regarding compensation by the end of March this year.”

Tickets cost £8 and £6 to see Stung at West Studios on Sheffield Road, Chesterfield. To book go to www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stung-tickets-439496534967.

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