An open letter to WASPI

VESPA by Dordy

You may recall that I posted once before about WASPI and their campaign to seek some kind of compensation for women born in the 1950’s whose SPA (State Pension Age) was raised from 60 to as much as 66 but who were not informed until it was too late to do anything to cover those extra years  – meaning that thousands of us (not all) will have to work on or face poverty.  

During the past couple of months, I and other ordinary members of WASPI have been subject to a flurry of emails from the current board of directors and, disturbingly, from a group of members appearing to represent a group of resigned directors wanting to regain control of the organisation. Alarm bells rang when the very first email asked me to take part in a ‘vote of no-confidence’ in the current board of directors, and another email from the current board of directors claimed that the ex-directors had retained the company database and were using it to email the membership to force a vote of members about who should run WASPI.

Since then hardly a week has gone by without an email from the ‘ex-directors or their representatives, and the current directors, talking about AGM’s and EGMs and proxy votes and who-has-done-what.  My first thought was – ‘What the hell is going on?’ my second was: ‘Data security breach!’ Why has no one done anything about it?

The government seem intent on ignoring us until we all pop our clogs when the problem will, they no doubt hope, go away, and I now  have little faith in WASPI as an effective campaigning force for 1950’s women.  So, with little expectation that it will make any difference whatsoever, here is my response to all that, in the form of:

An open letter to all those involved in the WASPI dispute over who should run the organisation and how:


Dear past and present WASPI directors/committee members,

As an ordinary member of WASPI who does not personally know any of the previous or existing board/committee members, and who has paid my membership fee like thousands of other women who were hoping that WASPI might be a force for good in the campaign to seek some kind of recompense for those women born in the 1950s who have been left in financial difficulty following the DWPs failure to adequately inform most of us, I have watched with disbelief and dismay as this very unprofessional and unseemly ‘WASPI civil war’ has unfolded.

It is my understanding (from the various emails from both factions (the current board of directors and the ex-directors/a group of members’ representatives) that the ex-directors may have passed access to the private WASPI database – or at the very least a list of members email addresses –  to a group of women who describe themselves as the ‘Members’ Committee’ and ‘Members’ Representatives’, with the apparent intention of forcing the resignation of the current board of directors so that the ex-directors can force a members vote and re-take control. As I understand it, THIS WOULD APPEAR TO BE A CLEAR BREACH OF THE DATA PROTECTION ACT. (Not to mention that calling for a vote so that they can re-take control sounds a bit like the sort of thing a tin-pot regime might do – how do they know they will even win?)

Now I am not a lawyer (but I would very much like to hear from someone who is about the legality of what has been happening), but surely, ONLY THE EXISTING BOARD OF DIRECTORS SHOULD HAVE ANY LEGAL RIGHT TO BE EMAILING THE MEMBERS FROM THE OFFICIAL DATABASE?  Can someone with legal qualifications please confirm or refute this?

The current board of directors (whatever one may think of them) appears to be in the quite ridiculous position of having to create an alternative membership database because the ex-directors have held onto (and it seems may have restricted their access to?) the original membership database. The ex-directors/Member’s Committee (again none of whom I know personally) are stating that no-one on that new database can be allowed to vote in the EGM they are proposing, for fear of ‘vote-rigging’. Is this legal? Members are members, regardless of who has access to their email addresses. I am surprised the law has not been able to restore access to the database to the current board and remove it from the unauthorized people who have been using it. Why? Surely the law is the law?

For those reading this who are not too sure what is going on: As I understand it from reading the many confusing emails that have been sent to myself and other members during the last couple of months, THE PREVIOUS BOARD OF DIRECTORS RESIGNED due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ –  Okay, fair enough, but they appear to have RETAINED THE DATABASE AND ACCESS TO MEMBER EMAIL ADDRESSES, instead of handing it all over to the new board of directors. Is this legal?

The ex-directors who have (apparently) retained access to this database seem to have been using it – either themselves or by passing access to the ‘Members’ Committee’ – first to call for a vote of no-confidence in the current board of directors, and now to organise an EGM at which thousands of current members are being emailed and asked to vote for new directors. Is this legal?

I am pretty certain that most of those members (including myself) WILL HAVE NO IDEA WHO TO VOTE FOR BECAUSE WE DO NOT ‘KNOW’ THESE PEOPLE well enough to judge who should be a director.  It is my personal opinion that in order to ensure there is no repeat of this situation a year or two down the line, that NO PAST OR PRESENT WASPI DIRECTOR SHOULD BE ELIGIBLE TO STAND.  Sadly, it would no doubt waste a lot of valuable experience and skill, but it would seem to be a sensible precaution.

On a personal note:

  • I do not like the fact that my personal email address has been disclosed to people who (I believe) have no legal right to use the database or to contact me, no matter how deeply they feel about their cause. I’m pretty sure they have broken the law.
  • I  was at first bewildered and then increasingly annoyed by the number and content of a flurry of emails, all from the same email address but clearly from both ‘camps’ (current directors and ex-directors). It has been hard to know which are legitimate. I am not one of the active campaigners, but the hours I have spent reading the emails, ruminating on it and finally on writing this post, would have been better spent telling other women about the cause and using social media to promote it. Now, I’m not sure it is worth it anymore.
  • So I would like, please, the two ‘camps’ to explain publicly to me, other  members and to other interested individuals, what this ‘in-fighting’ is really all about; why have so many directors resigned and why have the ex-directors/other members felt it necessary to ‘hijack’ a database they should surely no longer have access to. Do you really think WASPI can recover from this? I think you will lose a lot of members, and I will probably be one of them.

As far as I can make out after reading all the emails sent by both parties,  it would appear to be about personality clashes within the board of directors, and disagreement about how the WASPI campaign should proceed, After hearing from one party that unauthorised filings had been made on the WASPI database at Companies House, I looked at the filing history; it is a litany of appointments and resignations. No way for me or anyone not ‘in the know’ to tell which are legitimate filings and which are not. Anyone can look this up for free:  Companies House

  • I do not particularly care about the personality clashes within the WASPI leadership. I only want the WASPI officials to crack on with the task in hand, at which they were doing so well until the derailment!  I realise that the issues which led WASPI to be founded in the first place are very emotive, I am grateful that enough women cared to do something about it, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of each and every past, present and future board member/director. But this current situation is helping no-one, and certainly not instilling in me any kind of confidence that the campaign can ever recover. Bad enough that 1950’s women get ‘stick’ from members of the public who want to know why we in particular deserve compensation when there are others with equal just cause; others who think we are complaining about having to work until we’re sixty but who don’t understand that it is not the new SPA as such we object to, but the way we were left largely ignorant of the change until it was too late to compensate… and  now people are laughing at the WASPI women who are fighting among themselves. Very funny (not).

It seems to me, as an unbiased member (because, again, I do not personally know any of these ladies) that the focus here should be on how to get born-in-the-1950’s women’s’ plight taken seriously by those within government with the power to make some kind of recompense, rather than fighting about how to do it. The government/DWP must be laughing fit to bust right now, don’t you think? How can WASPI (as an organisation) ever hope to be taken seriously if the people involved can’t even agree on how to carry the campaign forward?  You only have to look at the comments on the FT articles to see how people are laughing at the women as they fight amongst themselves. Very funny (not). If the two ‘sides’ can’t agree, then perhaps the ex-directors should set up a new company and a new campaign, and run it the way they want to.

In conclusion:

I am very, very disillusioned by the whole thing. Successive governments have badly let millions of 1950’s women down (we are not alone, of course, but this is about WASPI) and are unwilling even to apologise, let alone do anything to help those they have so badly treated. Now the very people (hearts in the right place but…) who wanted to try and convince the present government to do the right thing are shooting us all in the foot too.

So, Ladies, please, please stop this bickering, bury your differences, and act like grown-ups. Your fellow 1950’s women are counting on you!


Disclaimer: the views in this article are mine and mine alone, as are any errors/misunderstandings of the situation within WASPI.  I salute all the ladies who have worked so very hard to spread the word.  I have not named names, but the following links may be of interest:

Congratulations to everyone who made it this far, and thank you for reading! Despite the recent setbacks, the WASPI website has lots of useful information about how you can lobby your MP to take up our cause. We are many… our MPs are few!


1950's writing

“Times, they are a-changin’…”

Bob Dylan certainly got that right… This last Christmas holiday, my husband and I spent quite a lot of time watching YouTube on our Smart telly, and some of what we watched was footage of the world in the 1890’s, early 1900’s, and the years up to 1958. It was a fascinating glimpse into a world which has vanished forever, except in those snippets which have been immortalized in family photographs (on which no-one ever wrote names) or on jerky black and white film (any sound has been added post-production and probably was not of the exact event(s) being shown). But still, it was captivating.

Then I saw a post on Facebook which essentially congratulated people born in the thirties, forties and fifties for having been able to play outside rather than sitting indoors on a computer, tablet, or PlayStation.  And I wondered, is this down to concerns about safety, or is it because today’s children simply prefer to play in a virtual world rather than the real one? And is the world really any more dangerous than it was when people of my generation were growing up?

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when personal computers simply didn’t exist. I was excited to get my first transistor radio!  I remember having to perch on the edge of the bath on a Sunday evening to listen to the Top 40 on Radio One, because you couldn’t always get a signal. Mine had a little arial you could extend and move about, but it didn’t always help.ITT TRANSISTOR RADIO 1970S

But prior to that,  my friends and I would play – quite happily, for the most part – in our back gardens. When we got a little bit older, we would ask permission to go to Rowhill Copse  (now a nature reserve). To us, it was the biggest & best playground you could wish for, and we spent many happy days acting out adventures. It often featured in my dreams well into adulthood! To today’s parents the idea of letting your pre-teen child go off into a nearby wood with others of a similar age might seem horrendously dangerous – we had to cross at least one main road to get there, and there were all manner of opportunities to injure ourselves, probably the biggest being a pond deep in the woods.  But of course we didn’t worry about that, and I remember being grounded on at least one occasion for going there without first telling my mother where my sister and I were going.  As we got older, days spent ‘up the copse’ or in the garden became few and far between, and we swapped outdoor delights for our bedrooms, where we would read books, play vinyl records and moon over ‘Elvis Monthly’ magazines.  Nowadays we’d be surfing online, listening to music on YouTube and Googling ‘Elvis Presley images’. (which I just did to get the picture below)

vintage record player.jpg   elvis monthly

My son will be twenty-five this year. He spent quite a lot of his childhood playing outside with friends, but (just as with my parents) it was very rare indeed that we didn’t know where he was or who he was with. We lived, for most of his childhood, in a cul-de-sac, and his playmates mostly lived in the same road.  But as he got older, he too opted to play indoors more often – and when we got our first home computer (in 2001, and it cost in the region of £1,000 for not very much processing power at all, really) that was – mostly –  the end of outdoor play!  Even now his preferred free time activity is an online game.  He recently bought himself a ‘daylight’ lamp… I wonder why?!

playstation1.jpg    colin-mcrae-rally-usa.jpg

So do today’s children ever ‘play out’ like we did? I’m of an age now where most of my friends also have grown-up children, and since we’ve not yet been blessed with grandchildren, I am a bit out of touch…

Will the children of today make tutting sounds when their attempts to get their own children outside for some fresh air fail miserably, or will they see nothing unusual in it? Perhaps they will be trying to convince the younger generation that laptops and tablets are a safer/healthier option that virtual reality games!  My parents used to stand at the gate and call our names – and later up the stairs – when it was time for dinner or tea or bed.  Now we have a hand bell that we ring, because nothing else penetrates the headphones our son wears clamped to his head most of the time… I sometimes worry that things might grow in the warm, dark interior between his ears and the ‘cans’ -but perhaps that is preferable to worrying about him being attacked in a nightclub…

Do you have pre-teen children? Do they play outdoors, or do they prefer computer games? How do you feel about that?  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!




1950's advice uk pension age WASPI

Are you a WASPI woman? Do you know what it means?

I very rarely (make that almost never) post about anything political.  I see it all going on around me on social media – tweets, Facebook posts, and the like, and I hold my virtual tongue, because (a) I don’t consider myself that well informed and (b) rightly or wrongly feel that I don’t have time to get up to speed with most of it. I don’t want to get embroiled in an argument where I don’t have all the facts, or as importantly, an understanding of the facts.

I’ve made an exception for WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) because I understand one important thing about it: I will have to work until I am 66 years and 8 months old before I can claim my state pension. Given that I have a chronic disease (for which a life insurance company penalized me when my husband and I first took out a mortgage in 1990 because (in the words of the agent) ‘statistics show that you may not live as long’) well,  I have to wonder if I will make it. Fingers crossed, I will – but I wonder how many women born in the 1950’s won’t?

In case you are not up to speed on what WASPI is all about, in a nutshell it is this:

UK women born in the 1950’s were originally told that they would be able to claim their state pension at age 60. Starting in 1995, successive governments have increased the state pension age (the age at which you can claim the pension you have been paying into since you started work) so that now, the majority of women born in the 1950’s will not be able to claim their pension -which in many cases means they cannot retire from work because they will have no income- until they are 66 or 67 years old.  In my case, at today’s pension rate it means that I will have been deprived of approximately £41,397.00, or £6,203.00 per year, by the time I retire at 66 years and 8 months of age. My mother lived until the age of 77 (being born in 1930 she was able to claim her pension from age 60). Granted she was a smoker and had other health issues I don’t (to my knowledge!) have, but if I don’t make it beyond 77 the state will have made a nice little saving… and I will have worked for half a century in return for ten years’ pension. Hmmm, something feels wrong there.

The issue is not so much that this has happened (and I can see how, with the increasing age of the population and the dwindling pension pot – more people living longer, less money to go around – I dread to think at what age my son, who is now 24, will be able to retire if he is reliant on state pension), but that many women were not told about it, and so had no opportunity to make arrangements to prepare for the shortfall. Women like me have written to the DWP as part of the WASPI campaign, and have received standard replies which basically say ‘actually, we did send letters, and it was publicized‘. I did not get a letter, nor did many women I know; it seems to have been very hit-and-miss. And publishing details on the relevant government website or in newspapers will not (and clearly did not) reach everyone.

I gradually became aware of the pension age increase over a number of years, but not in a way that suggested to me I needed to do something about it if I wanted to retire at 60 – to be honest, it pretty much went over my head until I started writing books and got involved with social media – way too late for me to make any meaningful financial adjustment. Was I horrified? Yes.

I haven’t yet worked out what I am going to do – work on until I can claim my pension, or stop work and hope to survive on my husband’s pensions until I come of pension age.

It is, of course, too late to lock the stable door for many of us – the pension horse has long disappeared over yonder horizon. Perhaps we should have ‘paid more attention’ – but that isn’t really the point, is it? Governments have a duty of care, and as I see it, they have failed thousands of women in my situation by not communicating the true situation in a responsible manner.  Perhaps the DWP should have enlisted a well-known poster boy:
(with apologies to Uncle Sam)

Well, perhaps not. But something that was ‘in your face’ was clearly needed.

Are you a female born in the  UK during the 1950’s? Did you know about the increase in your pension age, and if so, when did you find out? Have you been able to make adequate provision? How do you feel about the situation?

If you’d like more information, please go to the WASPI website: WASPI


Political rant over. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible…