Barbara McLean, now 64, was the manager of a charity shop prior to her and her husband’s lives turned “upside down” back in 2003. She had started work at the age of 14, and worked all of her life. But, one day in 2003, her husband – who has chosen not to be named – suffered an accident, and was left in severe pain. It was years later, when he discovered he had in face broken his back.
With her husband, also now 64, left with life-changing injuries, Barbara, from Cumbria, became his full-time carer.
“We go from day to day – because we never know how he’s going to be from day to day,” she explained.
“I’m up 24/7 with him.”
At the time of the accident, the couple had an annual income of around £58,000.
Since becoming her husband’s carer 17 years ago, Barbara claims the Carer’s Allowance, which works out at just over £250 per month (Gov.uk states an individual could get £66.15 per week if they care for someone at least 35 hours a week who gets certain benefits).
Barbara also gets around £100 per month from her private pension.
Her husband gets Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and won’t receive his private pension until his 65th birthday next year.
“We’ve carried on and carried on,” she explained. “We had no money, we had no nothing, not likely to have any money.”
Having used much of their savings to support themselves, the couple were banking on some extra income by claiming Barbara’s state pension when she reached the age of 60.
However, changes to the state pension age meant the age at which she could claim the amount rose to 62 – and then 65.
Now, under the Pensions Act 2011, the state pension age is increasing to 66 for both men and women – meaning it’ll be just shy of two more years until either Barbara or her husband can get their state pension.
“So now, like a lot of other people, I’m selling everything to survive.”
She added: “To be honest, I didn’t realise that they then upped the age to 66.
“When they put it to the 62, I’m saying ‘Oh it’s alright, we’ll make it we’ll manage, we’ll get it through.’”
Barbara said she’s spent “well over £50,000 of our own money”. She paused, and added: “Now, we’re penniless.
“I’ve gone through well over £50,000 of our own money.”
Barbara said she didn’t receive any letters regarding the changes to the state pension age.
“I honestly thought at 60 I was getting my [state] pension,” she told Express.co.uk.
“Gutted is the only reaction I can say, absolutely gutted. And I would like one of these MPs to put their self in my place for a week. Let them live on what I live.”
Barbara’s own health is deteriorating. “I’m crippled with arthritis,” she said.
Even if she was able to go back to work, it would be a struggle.
“I can’t go to work. I couldn’t stand and work in a shop now or sit on a till because I can hardly grip with my hands, so there’s no way anybody’s going to employ me even if I wanted to go back to work.”
A DWP spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “The government decided more than 20 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality, and this has been clearly communicated.
“We need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a State Pension so it is sustainable now and for future generations.”
The DWP says that means-tested support is available, if needed, for anyone experiencing difficulty.
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