Tag Archives: women

My Fight For PHi (income protection)

This issue relates only to the UK, so apologies to my overseas readers, but I hope you’ll all cheer me on in my David and Goliath fight against one of Britain’s largest insurance companies.

Very very brief background to what’s been happening:
In 1993 I took out an insurance called a Permanent Health Insurance (PHi) also often called an Income Protection Policy.  This is an insurance which pays out a proportion of your wages if you are ever unable to work due to illness.  It finishes when you retire, which in 1993 was 60 for women and 65 for men.  It’s paid out for the duration of my illness and without it I would have lost my home.  Fast forward to 2010 when the Government changed the retirement age for women from 60 to 65 so that the sexes both retire at the same age.  Great, it’s about time we were equal.  However, my PHi still ends at 60 leaving me 5 years with no money until I receive my pension.

Since the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 it is now illegal to treat the sexes differently so I thought I’d be able to have my policy term increased in line with men’s.  Think again.  The Equality Act has a clause which excludes existing insurance policies, so even though everyone agrees my insurance is discriminatory I could do nothing about it.   Just because I was born with a vagina and not a penis I am to receive 5 years less money than men.  It’s the goddamn 21st century not the 1800s – how can this be allowed to happen?!  I have used my fury at the injustice of the situation to try and fight it.

Over the last 7 years I have contacted everyone I can think of about the issue.  This includes my MP, the Pension’s Minister, the Shadow Pension’s Minister, solicitors, WASPI (women against state pension inequality), the Barrister working for WASPI, HM Treasury, The Financial Conduct Authority, the Countess of Marr, the ME Association, journalists, The Women’s Equality Commission, Liberty, Justice, The Equality Advisory Commission and the Financial Ombudsman’s Service.  Most people, including WASPI and the Women’s Equality Commission, didn’t even reply to my correspondance and those that were sympathetic could do nothing because the discrimination is lawful.

However, I did discover that if my policy was renewed, or the terms of the policy reviewed, the exclusion clause in the Equality Act no longer applies.

In 2016 my insurance company wrote to me and said that they had been overpaying me and reduced my benefit entitlement by a third.  The way in which my benefit is calculated is a fundamental term and condition of my policy.  I of course challenged this and asked them to look again at their figures.  They did so and said no error had occurred and stuck to their guns.  So I referred the situation to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service, who thankfully agreed with me that this change to my policy was unfair and directed the insurers to pay me according to the original terms of my plan. At the time the stress of this was horrendous but it might have turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen, because I am calling this change to my policy term a “review” and being as though this review took place after 2010 it means the exclusion clause in the Equality Act no longer applies and I can now challenge my insurers to increase the term of my plan to the age of 65 so that it is in line with men’s.

Of course my insurers say that no review took place and that it was just “an error” in calculating my entitlement.  Only of course I asked them to formally look at the situation (aka to review it) and they wrote and said to me that no error had taken place.  So to now call it an error is ludicrous.

I have now referred the situation to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service and it will take some time for them to make their decision, which hinges on whether a review of my terms & conditions took place or not.  Wish me luck!

This issue is so much bigger than some insurance company paying little old me what I’m due.  It’s about equality and still treating women differently to men.  If we retire at the same age, which we should, we should get the same insurance benefits.  End of story.  That no-one in authority is the slightest bit bothered that the change to the state pension age has discriminated against hundreds if not thousands of women claiming on PHi/income protection policies literally makes my blood boil.  We seem to be seen as collateral damage, a necessary casuality in a much bigger war.  Only I’m no victim and I refuse to lie down and die like a good little girl.  The fight goes on.

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No fight left

It’s been 5 weeks since the human rights organization Liberty said they might be interested in taking my disability discrimination case and I finally managed to get through to their advice line on Thursday.  It wasn’t good news.  They’re not going to represent me after all and I’m absolutely gutted.

It’s 2017.  How can the Equality Act, which is supposed to protect my rights and treat everyone equally, allow me, as a disabled woman, to be treated differently to everyone else?  How can everyone else be paid a health insurance until they’re 65 but allow mine to stop at 60 leaving me with five years to live in abject poverty?  The unfairness of that makes my blood boil and the fact that no-one gives a shit makes me even more furious.

I’ve tried every single avenue in the past two years and gotten nowhere.  And I’m exhausted.  I seem to’ve spent my entire life fighting and I’m not sure I’ve got any fight left.

I fought to have my depression recognized as a teenager.
I fought for five years to have my back pain recognized as a physical, not a psychological, problem.
I fought for a year to stop my ex-husband taking my home off me.
I fought to have my M.E. recognized as a physical, not a mental, illness.
I fought to receive even basic medical care, and failed.
I fought to receive basic social care, and failed.
I fought to be ill health retired from my job.
I fought to receive welfare benefits for the first 8 years of my illness.
I fought to keep my Permanent Health Insurance for the first 6 years of my illness.
I fought the builder who agreed to sell me a house, took £4000 of my money then raised the price of the house by £50,000 which I couldn’t afford, and lost.
I fought to have my EDS diagnosed.
I fought to have my MCAD diagnosed.
I lost the fight to have either illness treated in any way.
I fought the company who installed my gas fire and gave me carbon monoxide poisoning.
I fought my Permanent Health Insurance company for two years when they tried to take my money off me.
I fought when the Government said I was fit for work and tried to take my sickness benefits off me.
I fought my Permanent Health Insurance company when they tried to take my money off me for a second time.
And I’ve fought every single day of the past 23 years just to survive.

I’m so tired.  So tired of having to do everything alone and not receiving any help.  Tired of no-one giving a crap.  Tired of being treated like I don’t matter.  Tired of being ripped off.  Tired of the injustice, the money worries and the hardship.  Tired of the fight.

I don’t know where to go from here.  I suppose I should just give up but I’m left with this boiling rage that I can be shit on from a great height and I’m just supposed to lie down in the muck and die.  I can’t accept it.  It’s not right.  It’s not FAIR goddammit!  And I hate unfairness.

So if anyone has any bright ideas let me know.  Or if anyone has a friend or relative working for a Legal 500 law firm who specializes in discrimination cases and who hasn’t already ignored me, let me know that too.  Or pray, if you think it will do any good.  I need some help, I need it now and I don’t care where it comes from!

 

 

Pension Victory

….not for me before you all start cheering, but a victory which will hopefully add weight to my own battle against pension inequality.

As I wrote about here, the human rights organization Liberty may be interested in looking into the discrimination I am facing in respect of an income protection policy I’m claiming on.  Everything was fine until 2011 when the Government changed the retirement age for women of my age from 60 to 67.  I won’t now receive my state pension until I’m 67, yet my PHI policy (which forms the bulk of my income) still ends at 60 meaning I have a seven year gap with nothing but £100 a week state sickness benefit to live on.

If I were a man my current policy would have ended at 65 as back in 1992 men’s PHI policies ended later than women’s as this reflected the differences in retirement ages.  If I were a healthy woman and not claiming on my policy I could simply switch to a new policy which reflects the new retirment age for women and my PHI would carry on until I was 65.  So as a disabled woman I am the only section of society whose PHI still ends at 60, which is blatantly discriminatory.

You’d think I’d be covered by the Equality Act, which after all exists to ensure everyone is treated equally, but you’d be wrong.  There is an exclusion in the Act which says that insurance policies are exempt from discrimination law.  It’s scandalous and I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, to take on the (massive and hugely wealthy) insurance industry on my behalf for years with no success until Liberty recently said they might be interested.

They have been fighting a pension discrimination case for a gay couple for the past five years.  There was an exemption clause in the Equality Act which allowed same sex spouses to be treated differently to heterosexual spouses when it came to pension benefits, but this week the battle was won and gay people’s spouses are now entitled to the same pension rights as heterosexual couples.  The fact that the High Court found an exemption in the Equality Act to be discriminatory has important implications for my own circumstance and next week I’m getting in touch with Liberty again to see if they’ve now made a firm decision to tackle my PHI case.  I’ll let you all know how I get on!

Liberty & Hope

I have a Permanent Health Insurance policy (PHI) which I took out in 1992.  These types of insurances provide you with an income should you be unable to work due to ill-health and mine has been paying out for many years.  Thank God for it, because if I’d had to survive on state benefits when I became ill I would have lost my home (if you rent a house in the UK you get housing benefit, if you have a ginormous mortgage you get diddly shit).  My policy ends at 60 when I was supposed to retire and receive the State Pension.

However, in 2011 the Government changed the retirement age for women in the UK from 60 to 67, which has massively impacted my finances.  My insurers have refused to extend my PHI to the new retirement age and I wrote about how it’s affected me in this blog post and this one.   The change in the retirement age discriminates against me as a disabled woman and I’ve been trying for 6 years now to get someone to take on my case.  No-one has helped.  Not my MP, not HM Treasury, not the Equality Advisory Service, not the Disabled Law Society,  not the Financial Conduct Authority nor the Financial Ombudsman or any of the ten specialist Solicitors I’ve approached.  They all agree I’m being discriminated against but there is a clause in the Equality Act which excludes existing insurance policies, which basically means I can be treated differently to everyone else in the country and it is lawful.

The unfairness of this has, at times, driven me demented.  Either Equality Laws apply to everyone or they don’t.  You can’t cherry pick who can be discriminated against and who can’t.  Just because I took out my policy pre-2011 shouldn’t mean it’s OK to treat me differently to healthy people, or differently to disabled men whose PHI policies already extended to 65.  I now face seven years in my sixties where I will have to survive off £100 per week Employment & Support Allowance, which barely pays my Tesco grocery bill let alone my gas, electric, council tax, house, car and mobility scooter insurance & breakdown cover, TV licence, petrol (no buses where I live and it’s not like I can bike the 60 miles for my Hospital appointments!), water rates, internet (without which I couldn’t physically survive as I live 7 miles from my nearest shop so get everything online, even my prescriptions) or the help I need, eg. someone to clean my house.  If I don’t get the law changed I will face several years of abject poverty.

My very, very last hope was to contact the Human Rights organization Liberty.  They specialize in unlawful killings, torture, deportation and other more pressing issues than mine and I didn’t think for a million years they’d be interested in disability or sex discrimination, so I literally wept yesterday when they said they might fight my corner for me.  They are, apparently, already dealing with a pension age discrimination case and mine would tie in with that.  So I’ve had to send them all my details and then play the waiting game to see if they will help.  Please God may they help, because I’ve no-one else to turn to.

They are interested in hearing from anyone else in the same position as me, so if you live in the UK and are claiming on a PHI policy which still ends at 60 please let me know via the comments and I’ll email you.

Is it a girl thing?

Jen Brea’s TED talk (which received over 300,000 views in it’s first 3 days!) about the way women are treated within the healthcare system has made me think a lot about the way women are treated in general.  We face discrimination every day of our lives and it’s so entrenched that it’s normal.

On TV yesterday was a woman who had been sacked from her Receptionist’s job because she refused to wear high heels.  She was professionally dressed in a suit but had on flat shoes because she found heels uncomfortable (they’re fucking crippling and I have no idea why we put ourselves through the torture!).  The male TV presenter said that all the men wore ties which they didn’t like, so why was she whinging about having to wear heels which made her look “glamorous”.  What has “looking glamorous” got to do with looking “professional”?!  God forbid she should turn up to work not wearing make-up, because apparently that also wasn’t allowed.  Her brilliant reply was that if they wanted her to wear a tie she’d happily oblige, then she and the men would be dressed the same.

A man left a comment on my blog this week telling me what to do.  He didn’t ask politely “have you tried this product?” to which my answer would have been “yes”.  He assumed I didn’t have a brain cell in my head and wouldn’t have already tried his solution, because obviously I’m female and fucking stupid.   My brother treats me like I’m stupid all the time, even though he doesn’t possess a single qualification and I am educated to post-graduate level.  We’ll be discussing a situation and he’ll pipe up “what you need to do is………….”.  He doesn’t say “have you already tried…….?” to which my answer is always “yes” because I’m not thick and have way above average problem solving skills, he just assumes he knows better than me because I have a vagina and not a penis.

Last summer I was at the petrol station filling my car up.  I went to pay and asked for a ticket for the drive through car wash.  Sadly it was out of order.  As I was walking back to my car a complete stranger (male) tapped me on the shoulder and said “you don’t want to put your car through the drive through anyway.  It only needs a bit of grit on the bodywork and the rollers will drag it along and scratch the paintwork.  What you need to do is use the pressure washer.”  My reply to which was “thanks so much for your unwanted advice.  How on earth have I managed to successfully live alone for 30 years without your guidance?” (I wasn’t about to tell him I am disabled and can’t physically use the pressure washer, because my health is none of his goddamn business).  To which he replied “I was only trying to help you rude bitch!” like I was the one who had been inappropriate.

But it’s not just men who tell me what to do.  I have women comment on my blog all the time, who think they know more about my life than I do.  The most popular is “you know you have <insert 50 different medical complaints here>” when they don’t have a single medical qualification or have access to my test results or medical records.  They assume that, despite being sick for over 2 decades, I’m so bloody dense I wouldn’t have already looked in to any of this stuff.

I ask myself if they’d tell a male blogger what to do like he’s five years old?  Would a man walk up to another grown man at the filling station and tell him how to wash his car?  Of course not. I do know people are only trying to be helpful, but I ask myself if they would “help” a man in the same way?

The constant assumption that women are stupid and need to be parented like a child drives me insane.  I have lived alone since I was 22 years old and I will be 50 this year.  Despite being as sick as a dog I have single-handedly renovated two houses, the first of which sold within 7 hours of going on the market (even though I didn’t use an Agent) and 12 years later still holds the title of most money paid for a house in that street.  I own power tools and I can use them better than any man I’ve ever dated.  I’ve managed to keep my car on the road since I was 17 years old without help from a man (apart from my mechanic).  Through my own research and determination, and without medical help or care, I have gone from being bedridden for nearly a decade to no longer being bedridden.  In the last 5 years I have successfully sued three companies without help from anyone (I couldn’t afford a solicitor).  In last year’s north of England photographic competition I received the highest score of anyone in my Camera Club despite it being mostly full of men and the fact I am disabled.  I’d like to think, despite my lack of a y chromosome and the humongous limitations imposed on me by my health, I’m fairly successful in my life.

If and when I need help or advice I am more than capable of asking for it.  If I don’t ask you can assume I don’t need, or want, it.