Jimmy Stirling's DWP Diary: Heading off to the wilderness

In his latest diary update, 63-year-old Jimmy Stirling is having problems finding out if he's due a full pension

I AM Jimmy Stirling, a 63-year-old unemployed graphic designer, photographer and musician, single grandfather and social housing tenant living in Glasgow.

I receive Jobseeker's Allowance of £50 per week and have a very small pension payment of just under £25 per week. I do voluntary work for my neighbouring community.

I was recently conscripted to take part in the UK Government's Community Work Programme, where I would be forced to work for my Jobseeker's Allowance, which I see as slave labour. This not volunteering, this is not being paid a wage, this is conscription.

I am against this terrible programme and this is my experience in trying to avoid a six-month, 30-hours-per-week sentence just to juggle the government's statistics to make them look good.

Below is my latest diary update. You can read the others here.

30 August 2017

I signed on and my sadness seemed to have been noticed as the woman asked me if I was alright. I told her of my story and my family going to Australia

She suggested I could take two weeks off and go visit then when they got there. I told her that the DWP would not pay me for that. I also said that I doubt the DWP would give me the air fare either. I think she realised the reality but her intentions seemed good.

Radish commented on the last part of my story regarding my actual retiral age. I have checked this online with the government site as well as few others and my retiral age is 65 years, five months and 13 days. However, thank you Radish for your concern and I hope your journey to retirement isn’t fraught with jobcentre nonsense.

4 September 2017

Following Radish’s message, I decided to check up on my pension date and what my state pension would be. Having logged on to my Government Gateway, I found that my national insurance contributions were not up to date. 

It seems that one week’s contribution wasn’t paid in 2008 and three were not paid in 2016. I phoned HMRC, which deals with national insurance contributions, to question this. After waiting with the dreaded hold music for a while, I spoke to someone who would pass me on after I explained the situation. 

She came back to me to tell me the system seemed to be a bit awry, and asked if I could call back the following day. She said between 8am and 9am was a quiet time.

READ MORE: Read Jimmy Stirling’s full diary

I then tried to get in touch with my jobcentre, via the phone, and ended up getting an office in Sheffield. I explained to the lad, who was actually helpful, that I was questioning gaps where the DWP didn’t forward to the HMRC some national insurance contribution payments. The 2016 record showed that I hadn’t paid three weeks worth of contributions.

This was the period where I signed off for two weeks to visit friends in Canada. So, when you ask to be allowed to holiday abroad and you don’t get paid Jobseeker's Allowance, you also don’t get national insurance contributions paid either. My question was, if I was away for two weeks, how come it showed up as three weeks? The lad said he would get a letter to me to tell HMRC that I should have had a contribution paid.

13 September 2017

Signing day. I took the letter I was sent to the jobcentre to sort out unpaid national insurance contributions. After signing, I produced the letter explaining that at least two contributions were not paid. 

My work coach said that not having these paid will make no difference to my pension. The HMRC online check, which I took earlier, said that non-payment can affect your final pension. I was no further forward. I will send the letter to HMRC and find out what I owe, the best way to pay and if it does actually affect my final pension.

There is supposed to be a better link with the DWP and HMRC due to modern technology, so we are constantly being told. In this case, that just does not seem to be true. More phone calls will be required to an 0345 number. Luckily, my phone provider allows free calls to these numbers, otherwise I would be forking out to pay for them. However, a postage stamp is required because there are no more free envelopes for HMRC usage.

I then told him I was taking a week off because I needed it. So, he filled out the holiday form. I told him that I was taking a week off where I didn’t sign on as I am sure it would cause a lot of bother and that I would have to sign on at a later date meaning a later payment of Jobseeker's Allowance. I don’t need that. 

I will deal with HMRC when I return. Meanwhile, I’m off to the wilderness and off the radar for a week.

Picture courtesy of Jimmy Stirling

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