‘To think they can make us equal at this stage is not fair’ - Campaign against women’s pension changes gains momentum in Norfolk

Susan Bissmire who has started a local campaign to raise awareness of the changes in the retirement

Susan Bissmire who has started a local campaign to raise awareness of the changes in the retirement age, as she will not get her state pension now until she is 66. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

A Norfolk campaign to raise awareness of changes in the state pension age for women is gaining momentum amid calls for the Chancellor to bring in transitional arrangements in his budget next month.

Susan Bissmire, a 61-year-old affected by the changes who will not receive her state pension until she is 66, spoke of her anger at the short notice which has meant she is unable to afford to retire and gave her little time to make plans.

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith called for the Chancellor to provide help in this month's budget in a Westminster debate yesterday.

But Work and Pensions Minister Shailesh Vara said there were no plans for the Government to change its policy on the issue.

'We listened to all arguments both for and against at the time of the 2011 Pensions Act when we did make transitional arrangements. These changes are about putting our pension system on a secure financial footing rather than continuous confusion for those affected and further debate,' he said.

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Ms Bissmire who is a management support worker for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, only found out she would not be in line for her state pension in 2012 when she asked for a projection to see if she had made enough national insurance contributions.

After getting married aged 17 and having children, she then divorced at the age of 26, worked in low paid jobs before retraining at the age of 30. She did not start paying into a pension until 1997.

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'It hasn't been an easy ride and I haven't got a husband with a big pension to support me and the majority of women are feeling as I feel.

She has jointly set up a Facebook group campaign - Pension Action in Norfolk (PAIN) - and is urging other women to find the group and join forces to raise awareness of the changes and put pressure on the government. She said that if she had known about the changes before 2012 she might have made different decisions. 'We are not on a level playing field, I am talking about women in my age group. Women in the 1950s were brought up to be wives and mothers. We didn't have equality.'

She said she was lucky to still have a job, but others had been devastated by the changes.

'I am not expecting a huge amount of sympathy, but I just think it is the unfairness of it. That they could do this to thousands of women and not engage with us at all. If everyone knew about this in 2011 as they claim they sent all these letters out, why has it taken four years for everyone to get together? Nobody knew.'

Norwich MP Clive Lewis said: 'A third of women between 55 and 59 are not employed –why? Because half of them are disabled or in poor health; and over half of the rest have family responsibilities including caring. They will have no other income but their state pension.

'It is on the backs of these women, the poorest, the frailest, and with the heaviest burden of home care, that the govt proposes to save much of its £30bn.'

The campaign group on Facebook is called Pension Action in Norfolk (PAIN) and people can email the group at pensionactioninnorfolk@yahoo.co.uk

Are you affected by the changes? Email political editor annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk

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