Women affected by the raising of the state pension age may benefit from a proposed travel scheme that will be discussed by Durham County Councillors next week.

Women born between 1950 and 1955 have been affected by the decision to raise the age of retirement for women – which was formerly 60 – to make it equal with that of men.

Such women are often referred to as WASPI women, named after the organisation that was founded to campaign for their rights, called Women against State Pension Inequality (WASPI).

The changes to the female retirement age were first announced in 1995, to be phased in gradually between 2010 and 2020. In 2011, however, it was revealed that these changes would be sped up.

WASPI argue that – although they back equalising the pension age in principle – the way in which the equalisation was introduced and then suddenly accelerated came as a shock to many women and left them ill-prepared to plan for retirement.

In their unsuccessful 2019 general election campaign, Labour proposed compensating WASPI women, a policy that would have cost £58 billion.

Durham County Council now aim to lessen the hardship suffered by such women by bringing in a travel scheme to help those WASPI women who haven’t yet reached state pension age.

Around 3,000 County Durham women are thought to fall into this group.

The scheme would provide free off-peak bus travel within County Durham between 9.30 am and 11.00 pm from Monday to Friday. In addition, the women would be entitled to free bus travel at any time at weekends and on bank holidays.

Under the scheme, bus travel would also be free between 11.00 pm and midnight and tickets purchased before 9.30 am from Monday to Friday would cost just 50 pence.

The concessionary bus travel scheme proposed for the WASPI women is similar to that available for people who have reached state pension age.

County Durham’s main bus operators have already agreed to the scheme and the council’s cabinet is expected to give it the go-ahead when it meets next week. If the scheme gets the green light, it will be introduced on March 1st 2020.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr Carl Marshall, said, “We know that changes to the state pension age implemented by the government have left some women in County Durham in financial hardship.”

“This is through no fault of their own, but because of a lack of notice that money they had been expecting to receive at a certain time would be delayed. By introducing a concessionary bus travel scheme, we hope to reduce some of the financial pressure this has resulted in.”

The council’s cabinet will meet to discuss the travel scheme at County Hall in Durham City at 10.00 am on Wednesday 15th January.

(Featured image courtesy of torbakhopper, from Flickr Creative Commons)

(This article has been amended as an earlier version contained figures, concerning the birthdates of women affected by the scheme, that may have been slightly incorrect.)

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