THOUSANDS of women in Essex faced taking on zero contract hours or relying on Job Seekers’ Allowance after their worlds changed forever. 

According to data collected by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), more than 100,000 women in Essex have been affected. 

The change in pension age has saved the Treasury more than £4 billion but has also forced millions of women to replan their retirement on short notice. 

Many had no choice but to return to work and accept zero-hour contracts while being carers or of ill health. 

One Colchester woman told the Gazette: “I was made redundant at 59. What chance did I have of finding a new job for the next seven to eight years, in this ageist society?

“As it happened Covid forced me to go self employed online for a tiny fraction (roughly 5 per cent) of my previous pay.

“It also fails to take into consideration the fact that statistically women remained at that time the significant carers of children, elderly, sick, relatives etc whilst also juggling a job in which historically absence for reasons of ill children or relatives counted against her in terms of pay, consideration for promotion etc."

The woman said she felt generational roles were not factored into the changes. 

She said: “Obviously yes, of course today's men play a very significant role but we are talking about a different generation.

“I raised three very young, bereaved stepchildren and two of 'our' children as well as working full time, only very briefly once claiming jobseekers allowance.

“I simply feel we have been treated very badly and with a very dismissive attitude after decades of commitment.”

The data suggests that 5,210 women in Colchester, and 13,760 in Clacton, Harwich and North Essex are affected. 

South Essex totals 38,080 women affected, while Mid-Essex sees 46,440 women hit by the changes. 

Colchester based Carolyn Last said: “I was also affected having been born early 1954.

“Some of my friends born summer 1953 got their state pension two years before me.

“I was not officially informed. I don't agree with the retirement age being above 65 as the average life expectancy is dropping all the time.

“People in physically demanding jobs shouldn’t even be expected to work that long.”

Essex-based Christine Manning said: “I was born April 1951 and still penalised I had to work extra nearly two years – one year, 11 months and two days to be exact - then that enabled me to retire thanks to the Tory government. 

“I fully support anyone who has lost out." 

According to the campaign group, more than 3.8 million women born between 1950 and 1960 were told little or not at all that their pension age had been changed. 

While the group is now trying to get fast and fair compensation, they are also recognising the devastating fact that not all women will see a result. 

Since 2015, the campaign has said, more than 277,000 women have died, described as a “horrendous statistic” by South Essex campaigner Frances Neil. 

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."