The Weird World of Welfare

I received a demand the other day.

Cough up €500 or else we will make your life more miserable than you ever thought possible.

It was from Social Welfare.

Now I had better explain the background to this, and it is really very very simple.

When you do any paid work here you pay what the euphemistically call a "stamp".  When you retire, you get paid the "Contributory Pension" at an amount determined by the number of stamps you have.  Do a full lifetime's work and you get a full pension.  Simple?

Well, no.  Most of my working life was spent in RTE and as that is a "semi-state" organisation, I paid for a different stamp that essentially entitled me to nothing.  It certainly counted for squat when it comes to reckoning pension rates.

However, before I worked in RTE I had worked for a couple of years in industry, so I had a few stamps lingering in my account from the Seventies.  There still wasn't enough to entitle me to a pension though.

When I left RTE I started my own little business, and being self employed I started paying stamps again.  But then I decided to shut my business because it was too much hassle even though it was doing very well.  So what about my stamps?  I barely had enough to qualify for a minimum pension.

So they have what they call a "Voluntary Contribution" which basically means that I send off a cheque every year, and each cheque buys me a ful year's stamps.  So each year I have been bunging off these cheques and I finally crossed the hurdle where I was not only entited to a pension, but was climbing towards a decent level. 

The letter I received was for last years stamp, as they always demand retrospectively.

I boiled up the kettle yesterday, made myself a pile of sandwiches and filled a bottle of tranquilisers.  As soon as I had all the essentials for a long and tedious call to one of our illustrious gubmint departments, I phoned them.  I got through straight away!

I explained to the very pleasant chap on the other end that they were demanding a stamp off me but I was already being paid the pension.  He sounded confused.  He hummed and hawed for a few moments and told me I was onto Social Welfare [Voluntary Payments] section but that I should be talking to Social Welfare [Voluntary Pensions] section, which is incidentally at the other end of the country.  He offered to put me through.

Social Welfare [Voluntary Pensions] section answered the phone very promptly an pleasantly, and what could they possibly do to make my life a little brighter.  I explained the situation as best I could and that I had two questions – if I didn’t pay the demand, would my pension be stopped, and if I did pay it, I would have an extra stamp and would that mean more pension?  The girl also sounded a tad confused but not quite as confused as my friend in Social Welfare [Voluntary Payments].  Maybe I wasn't the first to come up with what I thought would be a common occurrence?

"Hold on a sec" says she, and I heard the frantic banging of keyboards.  It went on for some time.  Finally she came back to me.

"Paying that won't entitle you to any extra payments, as you'd still be in the same band rate".

"So there isn't much point in paying it then?"

"Not really.  You won't get anything for it."

"But they promised to kill all the firstborn of all my future descendants if I don't pay?"

"Don't mind that.  They're bluffing."

"So if I pay, I get nothing and if I don't pay you won't suddenly stop my pension?"

"That's it in a nutshell.  Your pension is safe."

I thanked her and disconnected.  The whole procedure had taken about ten minutes and I hadn't even touched my sandwiches or my tranquilisers.  Amazing!

I fucked the demand for €500 into the bin.

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The Weird World of Welfare — 6 Comments

  1. The girl at Social Welfare (Voluntary Pensions) seems to have been courteous, helpful and Frank. I wouldn't have expected item 3 from a civil servant. But if the computerised letter-issuing section in the civil service sends you another letter, say next year, with the same demand for 500 South Pacific clamshells, what action will you take, after recovering from a gulp and the  declamation of a string of words unsuitable for reproduction on a family-friendly website?

    • I have had a few dealings with Social Welfare [Voluntary Pensions] section and either I always reach the same girl or else they are all extremely honest an helpful [and have a sense of humour!].  It's about the only gubmint department I actually enjoy contacting. 

      And further demands will follow the first into the bin.  Why the fuck should I be saving for something I have already bought?

  2. oh dear, oh my, that was far to easy, and pleasant too? 'cripes I'd be stressed out worried because nothing happens that easy with gov't. I'll await the follow up post where the tranquilisers were consumed in the follow up mess that must be coming. Good luck.

      • I have had many dealings with many departments over the years.  I have learned that they have the most confusing [and very lengthy] menus, nearly always in Irish before English.  The person you get through to is NEVER the person who can help and will always refer you to another place at a completely different number.  When you do get through to the right person, they always sound as if you are the most boring person in the world and would you ever fuck off so they can go on a break.

        The one exception is the Pensions office.  I always seem to get the same woman who is polite, courteous, humerous and extremely helpful.  Maybe they are trained to deal with oldies who might have a heart attack at any moment?

  3. I would have gotten her name and kept a record of the conversation date etc. Then when/if you get any more threats you can say "But Jayne from Revenue told me ….Revenue's strength is in being a faceless, threatening body, they hate it when you can name some of them.

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