A few weeks ago, a letter arrived from the Department of Work and Pensions, the re-badged Department of Social Security. The present Government and the previous one had apparently been dilatory about telling people of a change in the law, reducing the entitlement of a widow to inherit part of her husband’s retirement pension. If I filled in the form, I would be told how much Lady Young would get if I was, sadly, knocked off my bicycle.
I filled in the form and sent it off to Long Benton. There was a delay of a few weeks before the answer came back. It was deeply disturbing. I didn’t exist. “Unfortunately, we do not have enough information… We might not have your correct name, or date of birth, or contributions record, or your National Insurance records may be incorrect.”
Let us pause here. There is no dispute about my date of birth, which is generously acknowledged by the Times and other quality newspapers on every anniversary of that happy event. I have had the same National Insurance number for nearly forty years (though I suppose I may now be sharing it with others) and my employer for nearly 30 years, the House of Commons, has to my certain knowledge, been making appropriate and ever growing contributions to the Consolidated Fund.
That leaves us with the name. Well, it has changed, but only in the sense that a Christmas tree changes when it is decorated. When my father died, it acquired three extra letters at the front and two short ones at the end; and other baubles have been added as my modest contributions to political life have been recognised. But the core “George Young” has remained at the heart of the enterprise and the computer at Long Benton should not have been blinded by this aristocratic and meritocratic dust.
But no, I was no longer there. Then another letter arrived.
“Dear Mr Young, I am sorry that we cannot provide you with an estimate of the amount of SERPS you can pass on to your spouse. But, if you fill in the form, we will tell you about your own SERPS pension in your retirement pension forecast.”
Readers will have spotted the question I asked myself. If I don’t exist for the purposes of passing on a pension to my widow, how might I exist for the purpose of claiming a pension for myself?
I completed the form and posted it to Long Benton on July 7th. As of now, I have had no reply.
(Update August 26th. I have had a response; they sent me an identical form to the one I had already completed and returned.)