Ahhhh well, bureaucracy is something I know I’m going to have to get used to, but I didn’t expect our own Government to start battering me with the wet kipper of silliness quite so soon.
I thought it would be a Good Idea and Very Sensible to get a state pension forecast before I go, to decide whether or not to top up my National Insurance contributions while overseas. You know, the sort of sensibleness your parents aspire to see you reach.
After much googlage and confusion, I finally found a page within the direct.gov.uk website which allowed me to apply for my state pension forecast. There were three options – you could get it over the phone, apply for a written one, or get it on t’internet.
Naturally, I assumed that getting the online forecast would be the easiest…. First step was to register with the ‘Government Gateway’. Simple enough, but then I had to wait for an activation code to be sent by post.
Despite having got married 3 years ago, and changing my name, I am still in The System with my maiden name, and my old address (although the address is more forgiveable, as we only moved recently). I thought your employer sorted all this stuff out for you, but maybe I am meant to do it myself, although I would have no idea how to do this. Do you have to contact National Insurance, tax office etc. separately? I haven’t a clue.
Thankfully our mail redirection from the old house also covers my maiden name, so eventually my activation code arrived here.
I tried to use it last weekend, but once into The System I was duly informed that the website I needed was down for maintenance (at a weekend, possibly when they get their highest hit-rate?!).
So I tried again this morning, and hoorah – success. But as soon as you log in, you are taken back to a publicly-accessible page within direct.gov.uk – in fact pretty much the same page at which I had started this whole journey. I was beginning to wonder why I had had to log in at all.
There was a nice clear link to “Get a State Pension Forecast “, hoorah, which I duly clicked on, but again was taken to a publicly accessible page with a bewildering array of links. I tried some of the links, including the first and most obvious “State pension profiler”, which took me through a series of questions and then suggested I might have paid x years of NI contributions and needed to pay x more to qualify for my £100 a week state pension. But this was all based on guesswork and I could have got this anyway without logging in.
So I scrolled down the page and found the link to ‘Apply for State Pension forecast online’ – hoorah again. But it did feel like I was going round in circles here. But this should be THE link surely?
Nope. Yet another page of explanations and ANOTHER link to click on. This time enticingly entitled ‘Apply for State Pension Forecast’.
Finally, I am back on the bizarre ‘Government Gateway’ page where my login actually allows me access to the secret room in which all of the mysteries of my National Insurance payments to date will be revealed to me…..
Or so I thought.
Yet another link, this time ‘Launch the state pension forecast e-service’. I didn’t hold out much hope with this. This must be the fifth time that I had clicked on a similarly hopeful and definitive-sounding link.
I click on it anyway, and to my relief and delight, something official-looking opens up in a full-screen window. This is it. I am finally, after 2 weeks, going to be told the information about myself which only the Government, thus far, has known.
It’s probably not going to be a great revelation to you, dear reader, that I was faced with an error message at this point, and told to phone a number to report it.
After being subjected to a suite of patronising statements from a robot lady, I finally go through to a lovely Geordie lady who informed me that the online state pension forecasting service “just wouldn’t work for some people and the technical guys can’t work out why”.
I asked if it was expected to be fixed at the stated scheduled service outage on Wednesday, but was told that it had been ongoing for a couple of months, and with a sigh she said that I may as well order my state pension forecast by post.
I was put through to the DWP, where my journey of going round in a strangling series of concentric circles finally led me to order my state pension forecast over the phone. It will arrive in the post next week.
On the plus side, now that I have been activated as a registered user on the mysterious Government Gateway, I am now entitled to carry out a suite of 28 tasks online, including ‘Defra seed certification’, ‘ sheep and goats ear tag allocation system for external officials’ and ‘London Borough of Brent customer portal’. So it wasn’t all in vain.
We’ve had a couple more removals quotes in, based on the cubic footage that Pickfords assessed us as needing.
The local firm finally got back to me, quoting £4,700, so we’ve ruled them out immediately.
We’ve had a much more interesting quote from the slightly disturbingly-named EVL, of £2,700, so I need to explore that a bit further. I’d be happier if they came to see the house (which has quite tricky access) and I could meet them face-to-face, but it’s definitely worth looking into.
In other news….
The Christmas tree, inspired by the early snow, has been up in our house since a record-breaking November 30th, and I have rather unfortunately decided that I LOVE cold weather. This does not bode well.
I’ve been taking some rather fabulous lunchtime walks this week in the snowy countryside around our office. I am taking in every sight, sound and crystal of ice, because I know that the countryside and glorious winter days are two things I am really going to miss about the UK.