"HER plans had been destroyed."

For Frances Neil, a former headteacher, these five words are ones she has heard over and over again. 

The 70-year-old, from Southend, is helping spearhead the campaign to get compensation for thousands of Essex women whose lives were turned upside down when the pension age changed. 

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is fighting to get equality for women who missed out on getting their full state pension. 

Frances is one of the determined fighters for the South East Essex branch and has been affected herself. 

She said: "I was given a letter just before I was 60 and that was no good to me then, was it?

"I had to continue working and I was fortunate I had a teachers pension, which would have been nice with the state pension together.

"First, I was told it was going to be 62, then it was 63, but nobody told me, I had to find out myself. In the end, I had to wait until 65."

WASPI is fighting to get women compensation for the pension money they have missed out on.

“The campaign is on behalf of 1950s-born women, who all had their pension age raised with little or no notice. 

“It started off with just being moved a short way away from 60, and then as things progressed, it has ended up with some of us waiting five to six years. 

“Some of us had no notice and it has caused great difficulties, poverty, misunderstanding and great hurt amongst the ladies of the 1950s generation.” 

According to Frances, the DWP’s website read until 2016, that women would retire at 60, despite the change to 65 being legalised in 1995. 

A total of 3.8 million women have been affected, with almost 100,000 in Essex alone. 

The changed circumstances have left women in a difficult position to entirely rethink their plans. 

Frances said: "It's been very, very hard and a lot of ladies.

"Some took the decision to downsize, some have tried to change employment, and some, who were out of work because they were caring, or because they decided they could live on, had to change their plans."

A friend of Frances' stepped away from a well-paying job before she found out she had to wait 11 years until she would receive her state pension.

She said: "Eleven years is a career, it's not just going back to work."

The news came to many as a shock, and she remembers a particular incident when the WASPI ladies were on their way to an event.

She said: "The taxi driver said 'What's all this?' and we told her about it. She said it doesn't apply to her, she's retiring next year and going to buy a place in Spain.

"We looked at each other and said 'What's your date of birth?' and she told us.

"We told her to really take a look at the government website to check because she wasn't getting her pension at 60, but at 65.

"She parked her car and she cried because she had worked and just found a property, but now her plans had been destroyed."

WASPI is taking up the fight for all women affected, whether or not they are part of the organisation or not.

“We are on behalf of any woman born in the 50s, whether they are or not a member of our or any other group," said Frances. 

“We are all affected, some of us more than others. Originally, there were 3.8 million women, and nearly 300,000 have died waiting for compensation while the treasury has saved around £4 billion. It’s a horrendous statistic."

A ruling from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has found that there is an “urgent need for justice” and is asking that affected women write to their MPs to bring the issue before Parliament. 

Frances said: “We are asking our members and other ladies to write to their MPs. We need their support because the PHSO ruling is not enacted and will have to be debated in the House. 

“It’s a government decision, the pension age cannot be reversed because it is law, but we want fair and fast compensation, one the government feels is appropriate for the maladministration.” 

A DWP spokesman said: “We are considering the Ombudsman’s report and will respond in due course, having cooperated fully throughout this investigation.

“The government has always been committed to supporting all pensioners in a sustainable way that gives them a dignified retirement whilst also being fair to them and taxpayers.

“The State Pension is the foundation of income in retirement and will remain so as we deliver a further 8.5% rise in April, increasing the state pension for 12 million pensioners. This sees the full rate of the new State Pension rise by £900."

Anyone interested in joining their local WASPI group or becoming a member can find more information on their website or by emailing waspisee1@gmail.com.