Saturday, 18 August 2018

Frustrated by Technology: Trying to get a Pension Forecast

A few days ago I received my annual statement from the Local Government Pension Scheme. As I only worked for Sheffield Hallan University for nine years this does not amount to much! I was curious as to how much government pension I was entitled to as my working life was interrupted by child care and before my first marriage I had several low paid, short-lived jobs, two or three years each, with no pension provision attached.
State Pension Forecast Application page image
I did attempt to get my small LGPS pension released to me last year as I am permanently disabled by the effects of Crohn's Disease and Fibromyalgia. I get Personal Independence Payment and have a Blue Badge and a Disabled Bus Pass. Sadly the doctor who reassessed me on behalf of the pension authority was of the opinion that my symptoms would be alleviated by Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Graded Exercise Therapy and some different drugs from my consultants, and that therefore I would be fit for work again within three years! I should point out that my last day at work was in August 2009, and that Sheffield Hallam University tried to terminate my contract due to ill health in 2010 after I had been off sick for a year! I fought this because I wanted to be recognised for ill health retirement as recommended by the SHU occupational health doctor. Having been unsuccessful in this (the panel doctor back then also said I would be fit for work again within three years) I applied for voluntary redundancy, which I was eventually granted, with a final leaving date of early 2011.

My GP has since reviewed my medication and the reports from my three consultants (gastroenterologist, rheumatologist and neurologist) and stated that no changes are needed or desirable at this time to my treatment. A physiotherapist was consulted and stated that graded exercise therapy was not suitable for me because of my damaged ankle (broken multiple times due to my weak, hyper-extending joints) and knee (obloque tear to the lateral meniscus of my right knee making it unstable, weak and prone to locking up). Hydrotherapy might be suitable, but as I have been recently diagnosed with epilepsy I cannot go in a pool until more time has elapsed since my fit. I saw a nice mental health practitioner for six weeks (self referred), and we discussed relaxation, breathing, and mindfulness, which I was happy to take up, even paying to attend classes at our local library, but she was unable to offer me more in depth cognitive behaviour therapy or a councillor. Apparently I don't tick the right boxes on their assessment of my mental health problems. She did suggest a pain clinic, but as that is at Mexborough just getting there (as it would have to be under my own steam on public transport) is impossible, I would be exhausted by the time I'd got halfway. So that has covered or ruled out all of the pension doctor's suggestions.

The pension doctor also said that studying part-time for an MA proves that my cognitive faculties are not impaired.  Doing that proves (he claims) that I must be well enough to go back to work in due course. I'm glad my brain does still work, for a few hours a day at any rate, or I would be completely useless. Find me a job that I can do at home, for no more than two to four hours a day (variable depending on my physical symptoms) and for three to four days a week (not all consecutively) that involves no more physical effort than using a computer or reading .... yeah .... I know, poor isn't it ... would you employ me? And yet that is what the MA consists of. I expect that I will never succed in getting this pension released early (I will be 65 in 2026) as after the MA is complete at the end of 2019 I really want to do a PhD next which will take another five years at least! At home, part time, etc, etc.

Going back to the Pension Forecast.

It seems you can get a forecast if you can log into the Government Gateway. I must have managed that a few years ago as I was able to renew my driving licence, but my log in details from then don't work now, maybe too long has elapsed? I tried to set up a new account but got completely bogged down by the technology. You have to use an app or a mobile phone to scan a QR code (with the same tablet that is displaying the QR code? Ehh? That's impossible), to get a six digit secure code or enter personal/financial information and some important dates (do you know when you set up your Google account or moved into your latest address?) to pass a credit check. I failed, not once, but two days in a row, even with my husband to help me.

We photographed the QR code with his phone so I could scan it with my tablet. We looked up when we bought the house in Cudworth, we checked when I changed my name by deed (good job I file everything as that was many, many years ago), we entered my driving licence data, my debit card data, answered questions about previous addresses, but nothing worked. It seems I can't be identified. He thinks that it might be because our credit card is in his name, I am an additional name on that account, we have a joint bank account, our mortgage is in his name as I wasn't working by the time we bought this house, and I've not bought anything by hire purchase ... ever, let alone in the past six years! Also I have no passport as mine ran out a few years ago and as we can't afford (and don't have time to take) holidays abroad we didn't bother to renew it.

You may recall that I had trouble proving I was myself for my student loan last year? Follow the link to read THAT fascinating tale, which itself refers to the problems I had getting a simple post office account some years before that. This seems to be yet another similar problem.  The student loan issue was solved in the nick of time for the start of the academic year after I bought a new copy of my 1985 marriage certificate (my ex has the original) and submitted my original birth certificate twice (they didn't record the details the first time and lost it for several weeks the second time), and after weekly phone calls to them all summer. Happily I don't have to go through that all again for my second year's funding, it just rolls over automatically.

My worry is that by the time I reach 65 or 67 or whatever the age is by then I won't even have a driving licence as that seems to be the only thing left that they believe. Will I be able to get my pension? Will everything be automated by then?  Oh, dear!

Edit - about 12 hours later:
Experian have verified my driving licence and after a few more questions (multiple choice, what bank accounts do you have, how long have NPower been your electricity supplier, etc) I was able to access my pension forecast. I need two more years NI contributions to get the full State Pension, so as long as the DWP keep giving me credits for being disabled I'll be fully entitled before 2028 which now seems to be my vital date.

Hooray! But it was a long haul ... two days trying, and with my husband's assistance I eventually got through their ridiculously complex system.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Sad State of Some War Memorial Gravestones in Barnsley Cemetery

Since March this year a kind Barnsley volunteer named Wayne Bywater has been walking around Ardsley and Barnsley Cemeteries photographing war memorial gravestones. He submits these to the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP) and via Twitter to me. My file of his photos contains 103 images!  The Barnsley War Memorial Project now have records of 112 war memorial gravestones in Barnsley Cemetery alone, but sadly many of these are in very poor condition. Without volunteers like Wayne these memorials may not ever have been recorded and in a few years many could crumble away as if they never existed.
Wayne's helper Alicia applying a dusting of soft chalk to a gravestone to aid in photography
(photo from Twitter on 28 April 2018)
The Imperial War Museum's War Memorials' Archive defines a War Memorial as "any tangible object which has been erected or dedicated to commemorate those killed as a result of war, conflict or peacekeeping; who served in war or conflict; or who died whilst engaged in military service."  This includes gravestones which commemorate a casualty buried elsewhere.  There must be a clear statement on the memorial (or in a printed document such as a newspaper report from the time) that defines the commemorative purpose of the feature and reports its erection. Thus gravestones which include wording such as: died of wounds received in action, killed in action, fell in France, died on active service, reported missing in action, or even killed accidentally while on active service all count as War Memorials.  The wording is a "clear statement" that the purpose of recording that person's name on the gravestone is as a memorial.

Yesterday I saved Wayne's latest photographs to my files. They included these photos
All credit to Wayne for spotting the significant wording on this pile of broken stones.

Three of the corners of the grave kerb edging have broken away and are lying down. There appears to be an inscription on both long sides and one end.

Zooming in on this photo I can see that Ann Outwin is commemorated on the right and Elsie on the left. As both inscriptions start with the word 'Also' I think there should have been an inscription at the top of this plot as well.
Wayne also provided a close up of the relevant war memorial part of the inscription.
"Also Herbert ... who was ...
Killed in France Nov 20th 1917
... ed ... Years"

That "Killed in France" and the date is what makes this a War Memorial.

It is only by combining the information from all the inscriptions that we can work out that Herbert's surname was Outwin.

I looked up these names in an index to the burials in Barnsley Cemetery (available from Barnsley Archives) and found that Ann and Elsie Outwin were buried in plot M 826 in Barnsley Cemetery. Ann was 78 years old when she died in 1926, Elsie was 50 in 1941. Also in the plot are Ethel who died aged 9 months in 1890 and James who died in 1921 aged 78. I assume from this that Ann and James were Herbert's parents and that Ethel and Elsie were his sisters.

Herbert's name rang a bell with me and I looked him up on the BWMP master spreadsheet. He was 37 years old when he was killed in action on 20 November 1917. He is buried in Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery in France. His wife was called Jane and she lived on Eldon Street North. He is mentioned on the Barnsley St Mary's War Memorial and he is mentioned twice in the Barnsley Chronicle during the years indexed by the BWMP volunteers. 

I have started to add more information to Herbert's Life Story on Lives of the First World War. This site is free use if you want to browse and add photos and free text family stories to your relatives. You only hit the paywall if you want to access the military and historical records provided and, *handy hint* these are available free of charge in Barnsley (Ancestry) and Sheffield (Find My Past) libraries.

I was sure there was something else about this man so I also searched for the name Outwin in my husband's family tree. Sure enough he appears there, married to the sister of the wife of my husband's great, great uncle Thomas Croft (of 'Daring Escape from Holland' fame). Thomas's wife was Matilda Dutton, older sister of Jane. Herbert and Jane had at least six children, Herbert b.1907, Ernest b.1908, George b.1909, Harold b.1910, Leonard b.1912 and Gladys b. 1916.  Jane also came from a large family, as she and Matilda were the youngest of at least nine children born to George and Eliza Dutton in Monk Bretton. 

Between the Outwins and the Duttons there must be lots of descendants and relatives of Herbert still living in Barnsley. The care of gravestones falls to the owners of the graves and their next of kin according to Barnsley Council. They are not the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or the War Memorials Trust. Please could someone take responsibility for this grave and show Herbert the respect he deserves. 

This is not the only damaged and poorly maintained grave plot in Barnsley Cemetery. If you are lucky enough to have a family memorial of any kind (and in my husband's family many of his ancestors were too poor to buy a stone and are buried in unmarked grassy plots) then it would be nice if we could care for them.

Lest We Forget.