N Somerset Council
By Dont_wish | Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 14:28
My warmest thanks for reminding me that I'm British, its often said that us Brits are one of the politest of nations, I'd never really considered this until attempting to deal with N Somerset council and mastering the ancient and archaic art of the "CLAIMING OF THE HOUSING BENEFIT" (imagine suitable booming voice with 7.1 surround sound) One of the problems of dealing with a government or council department is the fact that no-one is either responsible or liable for anything that may happen, I mean you can lose your temper with the girl at reception (sorry non-pc) person at reception, but it's pointless. All you'll achieve is to upset one or more reception type person's and get slung out by the nearest two security guards. No matter how many times you visit them, with the same piece of paper that you'd brought last time, that was photocopied twice, buried in a peat bog, dug up, copied again, lost and eventually given back to you because it wasn't actually needed. Nor forgetting the endless string of letters telling you that your claim has been rejected, we need more information to decide your claim, your rejected claim has been rejected, the information you provided for your rejected claim has been rejected due to the fact that your claim may be accepted. You eventually get used to ringing them up to ask,
"Please tell me what this letter means!"
The invariable answer is,
Yippee me thinks, and then,
"We're sending you another letter."
"Do I ignore that one too."
"We haven't decided yet, we'll let you know."
You guessed it, by letter.
The people you want to shout at (or in my case have polite but strong words with) are safely hidden in a security vault on an upper floor so that they don't have to deal with you the pleb (note: government term used by MP). Of course as a lowly pleb and Englishman I understand this behaviour, I certainly wouldn't want to confront someone who is possibly somewhat annoyed about something that has absolutely nothing to do with me. Because it's not my department, not my responsibility, not my place to make that decision or because I am unable to access that information on this computer system. It strikes me as wonderfully British that a system meant to assist you is as incomprehensible as a Chinese translation of an Italian opera guide found on the floor of a Turkish bath house. And that it is necessary to use that ever useful and often wrong tool known as 'The Internet' to translate. What's even funnier, no sorry not funnier, I meant sadder, do I mean sadder, yes I think I do. Is that the only web sites that explain the whole benefits system with any clarity (and when I say clarity, I mean in a way that doesn't rely on, as its foundation, the laws of chaos theory) are sites that are completely independent of government or councils. I mean call me a sarcastic git, but I get the impression that the only people that understand this system are the ones who have been using (or abusing) it for say, 20 years of their life, in which case perhaps the council should be employing them!
I know this is beginning to sound like the rant of someone who reads the tabloids every day and sits either in the pub drinking his hard earned jobseekers allowance whilst complaining that the country's gone to pot, or sitting in front of a 42 inch plasma screen drinking his cheap bottle of cider paid for with his rightly deserved sick benefit whilst playing 'Kill Every One In The World' on Xbox. But it isn't (alright apart from the cider, I am from Somerset after all) no really it isn't. All I'm trying to point out is that something supposed to exist to help people in a time of need should actually help people in a time of need, whatever their personal preferences to entertainment or mind altering consumables. In fact has it occurred to anyone that the above examples might exist because people aren't getting the help they need. I've managed to waste two months of my life trying to get help from a council that seems to either be so mired in bureaucracy that it's left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. Is unwilling to help because it simply doesn't see why it should waste it's hard earned taxes on those who need it. Or is simply incompetent.
Out of the three, I believe it's probably the first two. Like many institutions whether it be the health service, police, fire brigade or schools, they seem to be smothered by a layer of political ineptitude or upper echelon mismanagement that I'm sure makes many of the people that work for them despair (6.4 billion NHS computer system not fit for purpose, Fire control centre project scrapped after 649 million spent, playing fields being sold off to pay for school renovations, the list is depressingly long). And yet this situation isn't knew, its been going on for decades. It's quite incredible to me that we seem to be content with sticking our head's in the sand even as the media screams out about an ongoing list of almost criminal failings (I won't mention expense accounts). After all it's been 67 years since our last world war, when we could be forgiven for ignoring the ineptitude of our government because we were busy being killed in our tens of thousands whilst trying to do the same to others.
Perhaps it's because as individuals we don't believe we can do much about the situation, after all the turn out for the 2010 general election was only 65 percent of the UK population (and no I didn't vote). Which means it could also be said that we have exactly the type of government we deserve, or perhaps we just believe that the system is flawed from top to bottom and don't know what to do about it. In the end I suppose that all I'm doing is venting pent up frustrations in a typically British way, writing a letter, and if in my ramblings I haven't put across the point about my dealings with N Somerset council particularly clearly I'll try using an analogy.
Imagine that I'm an officer on the titanic, not the captain but a junior officer, in charge of navigation perhaps.
Oops I've made a mistake, iceberg, thump, down we go.
Now paddling like a demented duck to keep my head above water I see a lifeboat and call for help, when it arrives I reach up to be pulled to safety only to hear the words,
"Sorry, no room for you"
As I slowly sink into the depths I realise that it was the captain who'd spoken to me.
If on December the 13th I find myself without a roof over my head, as seems likely. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to drop some change into my tin as I sit on the pavement outside the town hall in Weston. But please understand, I have learnt a valuable lesson.
I am not a number.
I am a free man.
(Until I'm moved on by the police.)