There have been no startling developments on this subject since my last post but just to update interested parties on certain matters:
The All Party Parliamentary Group meets again in a few days time (but it can take some time to see any minutes) with the Agenda being:
1. Frozen Pension Campaign update
2. Challenging the Social Security Benefit Up-rating Regulations 2017
a. in the Commons
b. in the Lords
3. Campaigning for the preservation of EU resident expat pension rights in the context of the Brexit negotiations
This again highlights the concern being expressed about UK expats in the EU possibly losing their uprating rights on Brexit, with the possibility that this could highlight the plight of those expats who have not been receiving any increases.
The only parliamentary action I have seen is of a 21 February speech by SNP Spokesperson on Social Justice and Welfare Eilidh Whiteford in which she took the opportunity to raise her concerns on the frozen pension issue during the debate on the Up-rating Order 2017 which is the Statutory Instrument used to increase state pensions, this year by 2.5%.
Having again confirmed only a few months ago that life certificates would not be required from South African due to the state of the postal service I was concerned to see that SA resident pensioners were again being asked to provide these, and that there was confusion on the time limit. I raised this with the Life Certificate section in the UK and took the opportunity to ask why the website could not provide the requirements. I was also not too happy with the fact that although they did not provide this information they did point out that not all couriers delivered to all postcodes in the UK and that couriered items might be returned at the original sender’s expense which I felt might cause unnecessary alarm to old people. I was surprised that any international courier would not deliver an item to a major ‘transactional’ government department. Their reply was as follows:
“As you are aware, due to the postal problems, we cancelled our previous Life Certification exercise to South Africa. We have now been advised that the postal system is operating well and Life Certificates have been issued to some of our customers in South Africa.
“I have checked our records and we have not issued a form to yourself or your wife. [They did issue one to my wife only a few months ago and we had two way correspondence on it.] We do, however, issue forms every month and I believe you will be included in one of our upcoming tranches. These tranches are scheduled to be issued over this coming weekend and the weekend beginning Friday 21 April. The time limit for return of the forms is 16 weeks. It does say 8 weeks on the form which we are in the process of having changed to reflect the extended deadline.
“Should you have any issues, you can telephone our office and we will assist in any way we can.
“The issue you refer to regarding couriers is an issue over which we have no control. Due to the fact that our post is received at a mail handling site, we have had reports of couriers refusing to deliver mail addressed to us. We do not refuse to accept any post and would expect a courier to advise you before accepting your mail that they will not deliver.”
So from this and previous correspondence it seems they are not able to use email to notify people, they cannot provide a schedule of required dates, in order to provide plenty of notice, and they do not appear able to quickly alter their standard form to indicate the correct number of weeks in which to provide a reply which clearly from correspondence I have seen has been causing concern to those in South Africa who have been receiving the ‘8 week’ letter. I assume that delivery to a mail handling site does not constitute ‘good delivery’ for some couriers but returning the document to SA is not an ideal resolution of the problem. The department’s website advises checking that the courier will deliver to the relevant postcode which they give as WV98 1LW. I suggest checking the return address / return envelope for the postcode if resorting to using a courier. I’m not sure I agree with their view that the SA postal system is operating well.
From correspondence I have seen on britishexpats.com it seems that it could be even more of a hassle if you live in a non-English speaking country!