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.

No comments: