When dealing with the incalculable lunacy of the Department of Work and Pensions it’s probably good to be able to count up to ten, slowly, before exploding and quoting the immortal words of Ford Prefect to the Golgafrinchans, “You’re a bunch of useless loonies.”
I was off sick for a fortnight after having my gallbladder out. This took me to 15th May. I told everybody I talked to in the DWP that I was only going to be off for a fortnight. So on June 5th the DWP posted me four separate letters.
One was my P45. This, I was told, portentously, is for you to give to your employer. The fact that I was self-employed, always have been self-employed and have never had an employer was irrelevant. When I explained this, I was told, “But you will need to hand it to your employer.”
One was to tell me what they’d paid me. Which is fair enough, indeed it’s actually useful, we can put it in the accounts as part of income received.
One was to tell me they weren’t paying me any more because my circumstances had changed and I was now working more than 16hrs a week. Fair enough, I suppose it’s their way of formally signing me off. Admittedly it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to stick them all in the same envelope, but then it’s only tax-payers money, it’s not as if it matters.
The fourth letter was a gem. They’re going to start paying me at a different rate from the 2nd August!
So I phoned. I had to, these muppets have my bank account details, gods alone know what they’d do with them if they start deciding to arbitrarily put money in and take money out.
So I got hold of someone. I told him what had happened. I roughly paraphrase the conversation.
“Yes well this is because you have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and have had a medical check up.”
“I haven’t had a medical check up.”
“Well it says on your form you have.”
“Well I didn’t fill it in.”
“Ah, what’s happened is that you filled the form in to see if you were fit to work.”
(Filling a form in counts as having a medical!)
“Yes and on the form I told them I was back at work.”
“Yes, but that information isn’t collected from that form, and when they were processing the form they didn’t know that you were back at work, so we had to send you their conclusions. But we knew you were back at work so our letter [posted the same day] superseded their letter.”
I give up. I mean, if you’re not going to collect information from a form, why ask people to waste their time putting information on the form in the first place?
Admittedly we’re only taxpayers it’s not as if our life had meaning in the great scheme of things. But they could at least pretend they care.
But yesterday I got a small revenge on the system. I was cold-called by someone wanting to know if I’d worked in a noisy environment. I told them yes. They got excited at this, had I ever been issued with hearing protection, I answered yes. Now they were in full flow and the questions came thick and fast, with them getting more and more excited, especially when they realised I’d worked for the same firm for nearly forty years, then at last they asked
“We think you can get compensation off your employer, have you ever thought of taking them to court?”
“Who is your employer?”
“I’ve been self employed all my life.”
Long, heartfelt and heavy silence
“Do you realise that the self employed cannot sue themselves.”
There was then a click as they put the phone down on me
One has to take one’s pleasures where you find them, and at least wasting the time of cold callers is tax efficient.
There again, what do I know?
Try reading this, it’s also tax efficient and is guaranteed more fun than dealing with cold callers.
As a reviewer commented, “These are four excellent short stories introducing the early days of Benor. Each tale pulses with humour as the well-drawn characters engage in various adventures. Each story features great dialogue, lots of good food, wine and ale, all taking place in a believable and well-drawn world where the streets pulse with life. The reader gets a powerful sense of being there in a real world with real people going about their real lives.
I look forward to reading the next book and wish I’d read this one far sooner.”