IW WASPI rally: Seely challenged but supports cause

Isle of Wight Women campaigning against the loss of their state pensions met with Island MP Bob Seely at their rally in Newport on Saturday (November 10).

The IW Women Against State Pension Injustice (IW WASPI) say large numbers of women around the country are struggling following the government’s acceleration of the State Pension Age by the 1995 and 2011 Acts for women born in the 1950s.

Around 11,000 women are likely affected on the Island and 3.6 million nationally.

The State Pension changes affect all women born in the 1950s and campaigners are seeking “fair transitional arrangements” for all, meaning changes made in smaller steps.

Many women received little or no notification of the changes and some women could be forced to wait up to six years to draw a pension.

IW WASPI campaigner Di Hollander has been affected by the changes and explained what they mean for women’s lives, like her own.

Cllr Karl Love meets IW WASPI campaigners

She said: “I’m fortunate to have a good and loyal group of older friends – but they’re away all the time. I hardly see them anymore…I’ve been completely isolated, through no fault of my own or anyone else’s.

“The wider impact means I cannot help my children as much as I would like to, they’re struggling. I’d like to look after my grandchildren to help get them on the property ladder, I can’t do that. I have to go on working until 2022. My mother has had to go into a care home.

“I have been told I’ll get another job and ageism doesn’t exist – we all know that is utter rubbish.

“All we are asking for is fairness and recognition that this shouldn’t have been implemented. There are already women who have had to sell their homes and who are living on foodbanks. It’s not right.”

From left, Cathy Elobeid and Bob Seely bringing campaigners coffee in Newport

MP Bob Seely joined the IW WASPI rally, buying coffee for the campaigners.

He said he would be supporting their cause and would be getting in touch with MP Tim Loughton who spearheads the WASPI campaign in parliament.

East Cowes Councillor Karl Love also stopped by at the rally, he said: “A significant number of Island women are affected by the introduction of new State Pension rules. They will loose significant amounts of money because of the lack of transitional arrangements implemented by this government. Some women born in the 1950s will loose as much as £46,000.”

Bob challenged by WASPI Cathy

From left, Cathy Elobeid, Bob Seely and Di Hollander

IW WASPI member Cathy Elobeid, challenged Mr Seely at the St James Square rally, asking him to explain why he abstained from a government vote that would establish how many MPs were in support of the WASPI campaign 18 months ago.

She said: “He said to me he wasn’t aware of what it was all about and he has changed his views now, hence him being here.”

Mrs Elobeid said she wasn’t happy with Mr Seely’s change of stance alone and said she would like him to “stand up against Mrs May’s ignorance of the situation and make other members of government aware of the outright injustice”, as women were not notified of the State Pension changes.

Speaking to IW Observer at the rally, Mr Seely said: “To be honest, it was probably when I was new and I wasn’t aware of the issue. I don’t change my mind overnight and I don’t find out about things overnight so it takes time.

“When I was actually engaged positively [by the WASPI women], rather than just criticised, I sat down and talked to them, understood what the position was, and I actually realised there was a bit of an injustice here.

“It clearly effects a lot of women, and a lot of women on the Island. It effects a lot of people nationally. I think it’s unfair. If there is a meaningful vote in the House of Commons I will support the WASPIs.”