Pete Pheasant: Will my mate still be entitled to claim his zero benefit?
WHEN it comes to red-tape nonsense, the case of my mate, Mick, takes some beating.
Mick's in his early-60s. He spent his working life as a teacher until a stroke forced him to retire. For the past five years, he's been deemed eligible for incapacity benefit.
Mick understands that the Government has to look after taxpayers' money, so he wasn't surprised when the Department for Work and Pensions told him his entitlement to incapacity benefit was being reassessed. He filled in a questionnaire that came through the post. Then he got a letter telling him that a medical examination had been arranged. But he mislaid the letter and missed the appointment.
Mick tried to make amends, though. He travelled the four miles to his nearest job centre, hoping to speak to someone in person about his rather curious situation.
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They told him he'd have to call another office and let him use an internal phone. The official who answered promised to call back but never did. Instead, Mick received a form about permitted work for people on incapacity benefit. He returned to the job centre but was told no-one there could discuss his case.
Another form arrived in the post, asking why he'd failed to turn up for the scheduled assessment and warned: "If you cannot give us a good reason…we may stop your benefit or National Insurance credits."
The second part of that is irrelevant to Mick, since he clocked up more than 30 years of NI contributions while working and knows he'll qualify for a full state pension when he's 65.
But here's the bonkers bit: although he's been deemed eligible for incapacity benefit for five years, Mick has never been paid a penny, because the teacher's pension he receives means he's entitled to benefit of: nothing, zero, nowt.
Someone, however, is charged with putting him in the right pigeon-hole. A box has to be ticked. All this feverish work by State-sponsored pen-pushers has done precisely what Mick's never done in his life: waste taxpayers' money
So he's decided not to play ball, since the whole purpose of a medical examination is to establish whether he's still eligible for incapacity benefit. If the doctor (paid for with our taxes) were to say yes, Mick would continue to be entitled to £0.00, whereas if he said no, he'd get nothing, zero, nowt. You couldn't make it up, could you?
I SEE that a council in Devon is set to become the first in the UK to vote on whether to abolish apostrophes from street signs. Apparently, those flying commas cause confusion.
Not for me. I understand that Queen's Drive is a street named after a queen, while Queens Drive might be what very effeminate gentlemen do in a motor vehicle.
But what do I care? Abolish the apostrophe, aberrant an' all. And the hapless hyphen and the queer question mark. Let's ditch equations and scientific formulae while we're at it. Let the whole world speak in LOLs and OMGs.
Deep breaths, Peter, deep breaths…