A huge thank you from WePaidInYouPayOut to the anonymous donor who has put our campaign name forward to the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, to be added to the commemorative plaque that will be fitted under the XH558's delta wing.
25th May was the 60th anniversary of XH558's first flight. The plaque will be unveiled on 1st July 2020, which is the 60th anniversary of this remarkable aircraft becoming the first Vulcan B Mk2 to commence RAF services on 1st 1960. The donation will not only carry our name for a very long time but will also help secure the new home for Vulcan XH558.
Coral Maddock met up with Kay Clarke, founder member of WOW (1950s Women of Wales (1950sWOW) and beyond group, here she tells Coral about her pension campaign.
What made you choose the groups name WOW?
I had been a member of the first WASPI group in Wales since almost the beginning quickly becoming admin. After the first few months I was encouraged to set up a WASPI group in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Sadly campaigning was held back in the area when the second WASPI split occurred. 1950s Women of Wales came about after my having become disillusioned with what was happening within WASPI. It grew very quickly and women from all over the UK were asking to join. Consequently it then became known as 1950s Women of Wales (and beyond) Having kept my association with WASPI all along we have work together on rallies and other events such as local council addresses and talks to members of the public throughout S Wales.
Has Coronavirus affected your campaigning?
It has. To begin with it was felt that what was happening in our country and all over the world was far more important than our fight for our pensions. People were fighting for their lives. But soon after it became evident that many people were being helped financially. Since we had such a strong case for consideration I felt we should tactfully resume due to the fact that so many women had been suffering the same financial losses for years and were even now still not being considered as were it seemed everyone else!
Have you had experience in running other groups?
I have 2 other groups on completely different subjects. Blaujager.....I have bred and shown dogs, predominantly Weimaraners having bred champions and gained top honours at Crufts. I also bred the famous Smirnoff ice dog. The other is The potty pantry and blooms where many of my bespoke celebration cakes can be seen.
Did you find campaigning and public speaking easy?
When Campaigning and talking one to one there is no stopping me but even now you will see me visibly shaking when speaking in public!
Did you find MPs supportive of our campaign? Many are! From all parties. The problem is Party policy and the whip!
Are members proactive with campaigning?
Sadly it is the usual few who join in. Though we have many many members, the response is only high when news of progress is shared. Though I realise that work and caring responsibilities come in the way of rallies and other events I am forever appealing for more support from all members.
Why are you campaigning when the Government-and DWP clearly state that all of those affected were clearly notified, Kenneth Clark clearly mentioned this in 1995?
Clearly mentioned it to who!? I was far too busy bringing up 3 children alongside holding down 3 jobs at that particular time in my life. I had no letter then though I'm sure if I had fallen short in my tax payments there would have been one pushed through my letter box soon enough! As I have said I was in court for the Judicial Review where it was stated by Sir James Edie, barrister for the DWP , that the government did not send out letters at this time to all of those affected and it is not the legal responsibility of the government to do so! In layman terms... No we didn't so tough!
Does your group welcome men and women?
We do indeed.
I understand you had significant health issues last year, thankfully you have recovered, you must be extremely passionate and determined to continue campaigning, are you putting your health at risk again?
I have had many offers of help since my heart attack. These have been taken up with relish and I now ensure that I do not allow myself to become as stressed or stay up so late quite so much as I did! I have a very supportive team around who keep an eye on me!
Do you campaign with other Pension campaigning groups?
I believe completely in all groups working together in harmony to achieve our goal. To fight amongst ourselves only gives fuel to the real enemy......those who stole our pensions and refuse to come to the table, admit they messed up and put things right! So yes I most certainly do and shall continue to do so for the duration.
Do you think campaigning for pensions has made progress or maybe stagnant?
It has indeed made progress! We are now a well known campaign. The biggest this century. We have many politicians on side and have an appeal pending after a very hard fought court case. It was an honour to have been in attendance at the original hearing on both days last year. Just two weeks before I fell ill.
Do you feel Pension injustice is political?
If so do you accept political posts? I was in the public gallery in Westminster along with about 35 other campaigners from various groups on budget day 2018 when we saw the chancellor take his seat after his speech. We stood up shouting 'shame on you' for a good 10 minutes before being removed. The sight below in the chamber was very political. The whole of the opposition benches were standing clapping cheering and taking photos. The other side of the room saw sullen, cross, embarrassed and shocked faces. But in amongst them were one or two stifled grins! So yes it is indeed political. But as to political posts unrelated to our campaign I will decline. Some of our members still hold allegiance to the party we need to win over. We have no desire to have these ladies upset by party politics.
Are you campaigning for Social injustices as well as pensions?
No. Our campaign came about because the women born in the 1950s had little or no notice about state pension age changes. It remains the same. We do now have some members from the 1960s who it seems had also not been notified. As we have spent six years of our lives at a time when life becomes even more precious, it is hoped that if no restitution is soon agreed upon that they will step into our shoes and carry on campaigning for justice.
How many members are in WOW?
To date we have 1,740 in WOW and 1,913 in 50s Women United, the group I set up for the 2 London rallies, Remember Remember and the aborted 21/7 support rally.
Are you a public or private group? Private. We have become public on a couple of occasions in order to promote events. However we have found that it is too easy for people who have a hidden agenda with a desire to cause upset within our group to comment on our issue.
Can you please share some of your rallies, demonstrations, with us please.
Personally I have been to most of the major rallies throughout the UK since the very first just 2 days after the dreaded BREXIT including the infamous one the following spring where we saw 7,500 campaigners outside Westminster interrupt the broadcasting of the budget with their chanting! I travelled to Manchester to the wonderful Radio City rally by Linda Wyatt and again back to London for two further large rallies, one for Trudy's book launch and the one I had a hand in organising along with Catherine Cuthbert on 5 November last year. I also came south to the Weymouth rally where the wonderful suffragette image was taken on the seafront with the south of England ladies joined Trudy for a 'local shout out'! I have with help arranged a number of Wales rallies at the Senedd (Wales Parliament) and three in Cardiff City Centre, and been instrumental in having had one of two plenary's within the Senedd resulting in papers of support for our campaign being sent to Westminster requesting action to be taken to resolve our issue.
If we are unsuccessful with the Judicial Review 21/22nd July 2020 will you give up, or do you have an action plan?
We had planned on doing a rally in London on the 21st July and I was on the organising committee. Sadly COVID put paid to that. I have no plan to stop campaigning for justice for these women. It's in my blood!
Our group We Paid In You Pay Out produced a paperback book full of personal stories on how the pension age increase has affected us. As of May 2020, we have sold over 100 copies.
The book tells the heartbreaking stories of hardship, despair, using food banks, selling their possessions to survive, selling their family homes, and unfortunately death; 82,000 women have sadly died before reaching their new state pension.
We collated all these stories to present to 10 Downing Street in 2018. We had a great gathering outside the famous front door. While we were there, we visited Houses of Parliament in an attempt to raise awareness of the pension age injustice.
Here with a book review by Author of The Single Feather, Ruth Hunt who has been a long term supporter of our campaign;
"We Paid in You Pay Out, is a collection of personal testimonies from 1950’s-born women on how the unexpected rise in the state pension age is affecting their lives. It is edited by Trudy Baddams and was published in January 2018."
"The argument should be well known by now. Women who were born in the 1950’s were told they would retire at 60 but were informed, far too late in the day, that their retirement age was now 66. The lack of information and confusion surrounding the retirement age even meant in 2016 the government’s own website stated that the retirement age for these women was 60."
"The pension hike means if women have a job, they have to carry on working, but as this testimony describes, it can take a physical toll: “I am still working at the supermarket, but I suffer from arthritis and severe back pain and some mornings it’s a real struggle to get out of bed. I’m not sure I can keep it up for another two years…”
"Women who can’t get a job or are too sick and/or disabled to work find their only option is the cruel DWP. One contributor with cancer was sanctioned after a DWP error. She writes about the impact of that sanction, and: “The constant fear and worry this will happen again.”
"Other women take on caring roles. In the book, a 64-year-old woman tells of how she cared for her seriously ill partner. She writes: “In the past 5 years his condition worsened, resulting in end stage kidney failure and he was diagnosed with dementia… If I had been given my pension at 60, I could have given him 100% of caring, instead of having to go to work as well…. He passed away in March 2017.”
"A few lines from a powerful poem at the end of the book points to how this rise in the pension age for the 1950’s women don’t solely affect them:
Companies are forced to employ tired and old
and young people feeling left out in the cold.
Money is not the main crux of this,
it’s 6 years been stolen – 6 years freedom we’ll miss!"
"It is this sense of injustice one is left with after reading this collection. The lives put on hold, and the suffering as a result. It’s also clear that this is not just an issue for the women affected but for society as a whole. It’s about decency, fairness, and cuts through generations from the very young to the old."
Ruth F Hunt Author The Single Feather
The book is available on eBay.
We have also created many booklets along the way with contributions from all our members, here are some of the links:
What made you start the group We Paid In You Pay Out and when?
It was when I realised that actually this issue of pension age change will affect me, I followed WASPI for a while and attended my first rally outside the Houses of Parliament with other 50's women in 2018 I then realised that there were so many different groups fighting the injustice that I felt we should really all be under the same umbrella, we all want justice, so let's all get together and fight together. We sort of swallowed up members from other groups where they could discuss our concerns without rules and regulations, we all wanted the same thing. We Paid In You Pay Out began in soon after and we now have close to 10,000 members in the main group and have many Local2You groups too, local groups making friends and looking out for each other on a local level and co-ordinating travel plans for national rallies and protests.
Have you had experience in running other groups?
Yes I created a group called Abolish Assessments and Benefit Sanctions which was relevant at the time as I was fighting the unfair welfare system with its assessment's and benefit denial to those who are sick and disabled. I realised that actually these groups are interconnected as many of the 50's women are suffering at the hands of this poor welfare system which is not fit for purpose.
Did you find campaigning and public speaking easy?
I thoroughly enjoy organising events and rallies, we've had several here in Weymouth, and joined other groups in huge national protests, but no public speaking is not easy for me, I have done it, but I find I get tongue tied and lose confidence, I am better writing letters than speaking in public.
Do you find MPs supporters of our campaign?
Yes we have many MP's who support the campaign from both sides of the house, but of course there are many who don't and this is where we come unstuck and we continue campaigning, to make MP's understand why we are campaigning and take on board our issues.
Are members proactive with campaigning? We have an abundance of members prepared to travel to protest, rally, demonstrate and those who can't because of caring responsibilities, work, age-related ill-health do their bit as keyboard warriors.
Are you campaigning just for women of the 50s? What about the men who maybe supporting some of the women affected by the rise of the SPA?
1950's women are just the start, we have seen a 6 year pension age increase squashed into 4 birth years, this is wrong, it should have been down slower and in a fairer way, but the thing is we all pay National Insurance to qualify for our state pensions and government just keep increasing the pension age, thus the title of the group WePaidInYouPayOut, we have all paid in and they need to pay out.
Why are you campaigning when the Government-and DWP clearly state that all of those affected were clearly notified, Kenneth Clark clearly mentioned this in 1995.
We were not notified about this change, Government send letters to all benefit claimants, all pensioners to advise them of any change to their benefits/pensions, but they failed to let us know that we would have to wait a further 6 years for our pension.
Are many ladies over 60 still in employment?
Women remain in employment when they can, those who can't attend job centres and have to prove they are looking for work 35 hours a week, seeking work they will never get as they compete with the youngsters. They receive sanctions if they don't do this job-search, some have used food-banks.
How many ladies have died RIP without being in receipt of their pensions?.
The latest figure was 92,000 women died before they reached their new pension age, this is quite shocking, and of course the figures will go up now we have this coronavirus, but the government are failing them again as the World Health Organisation states that those over the age of 60 are at risk, but many women and men have to continue to work in shops, in care, those who collect our rubbish and deliver our post, putting themselves at risk in doing so.
Does your group welcome men and women?
Absolutely, we are all in this together, a lifetime of paying into a system only to be denied what is due as our working life comes to an end, we have men who get involved in the fight and we also have a group of youngsters who are very talented and have put our issue to videos and chart topping music highlighting our campaign, we are all encompassing.