Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

Off to Portrush

The family used to go to Portrush every Easter Monday when I was a child and we’ve restarted that tradition since getting back from France.

Over the years lots of things have changed but not really that much in Portrush. It takes a lot less time to get there these days not so much because the roads are better but rather because there are fewer people doing the trip which is very noticeable in terms of the lack of cars there relative to yesteryear.

Barry’s, the entertainment complex, seems hardly to have changed at all. Aside from two newish (a number of years old) outside rides for the kids, not much has changed. The roller-coaster and dodgems seem pretty much identical and electronic games have largely passed it by.

One thing that did change for a brief period was the arrival of the Dunluce Centre but that’s closed down now as indeed have several of the non-chippy food outlets which had arrived a few years back.

 

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

What’s going to happen with welfare reform in Northern Ireland?

For a very long time, the social security payments scheme in Northern Ireland was more or less identical but separate from the scheme in the mainland. Thus, for example, if you retired in Northern Ireland and then moved to England, your retirement pension would be paid from the English system but the amount would be the same.

However, up until the early 1990s there were separate computer systems to do this in Northern Ireland and in England. Then with the replacement of the English system in the 1990s, the running of the systems gradually moved to England and the various computer teams supporting the old Northern Ireland systems were disbanded.

Roll that forward 20-odd years and the reform of social security that is taking place in England, Scotland and Wales hasn’t, yet, been accepted.

Options as to how to proceed are quite limited.

Firstly, NI could carry on with the old system for a while. There are penalties of, at present, £5 million a month being applied and that’ll have consequences for the non-social security money i.e. there would need to be substantial cuts to balance the books. However, there’s only one computer system now, run in a number of centres across the country but supported centrally and that’s rather a bigger problem. Once the mainland change over to universal credit, support for the old systems will stop and those support teams will disband. The NI computer system is actually in England and, in principle, NI could buy that but what they can’t buy is the support team as that will be moving on to the new system. Outcome of this option? Well, something like 2 or 3 years from now the social security payments in NI will simply stop being paid because the computer system which is paying them now will either be switched off or, if it’s not, it will develop a fault and the team that currently fixes faults won’t exist. In practice, this is likely to end in chaos.

Second, continue on with the old system but get a replacement to avoid the consequences of the switch-off above. Again, there are the penalties to contend with. However, more significant is that 2 to 3 year deadline: it just isn’t long enough to train up a new support team, even if the will to do that were there (which it isn’t) and the GB teams were able to train up a backup team (unlikely in the timeframe). It would also be seriously expensive as the GB systems were written with much larger IT teams than are usual in NI (around 10 times as large) so running costs would be much higher per capita.

Third, agree the changes in welfare in NI. Best option probably, but seemingly rather unlikely to happen.

Fourth, give back the social security to direct rule. Not that different from the previous option but probably a whole lot better from the point of view of the local politicians as they’ll be able to argue that the cuts are imposed directly by London.

So what’s likely to happen? The possibility of social security payments simply stopping should focus the minds of the politicians but they don’t seem to believe that the computer system would be switched off – what they haven’t allowed for is that without support, it’ll just stop working sooner or later. Neither of the first two options are great for NI given the penalties that will be applied and the consequences for public services. Options 3 and 4 aren’t great politically so unlikely to happen before the upcoming elections.

 

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Just how long will it take to fully settle back into life here?

Looking back on it now, it was remarkably easy for Wendy to settle into life in Northern Ireland 10 years ago. Back then, she could sign up for a doctor, get a UK driving license and even a National Insurance Number wasn’t that difficult.

This time around she already had the NI Number although it turned out that there was a non-obvious form that needed to be completed to tell the tax people that we were now living here rather than in France. She had the driving license too and didn’t even need to get her photo certified as we thought she might have had to.

The doctor was a touch more difficult as they struck her off after about three weeks as they didn’t believe that she intended to live here. That’s one notable difference in the health system from the rest of the UK. Elsewhere you just need to be there to register, in NI you need to prove you intend to continue to live in NI (and, yes, that does, or rather is intended to, apply even to those moving from England to NI).

Social security is rather more difficult and as a result we ended up in court with them last Tuesday as they simply don’t believe that she is legally here at all. It looks like the critical document is going to be one that all concerned totally overlooked but more on that anon as the matter has still to be decided by the judge.

 

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Quite a full Easter

With starting the new job the week before Easter, this is my first week of work holidays in over eight years!

As we normally do, it was off to Portrush on Easter Monday. Usually, there’s a mass of traffic along the way, a traffic jam a mile or two long going into the town, pretty much nowhere to park, wall to wall crowds everywhere regardless of the weather and no money in the cash machines. This year the traffic seemed a bit light on the way up, there was no traffic jam at all, loads of parking spots even quite close into the town, hardly any crowds and money in the cash machines even in the late afternoon as we were leaving. We didn’t even have to queue in the café and there was next to no queuing in Barry’s either. Methinks that Portrush is going to have a tough time financially if they can’t fill up even on Easter Monday.

Ongoing throughout the holiday has been the assignment for SD329 a biology cum psychology course that runs through to October. Although it was very much a last minute thing, it was a much easier assignment than the chemistry one which I’ve been ruminating over for weeks. I wasn’t too keen on the breakdown of every section of every question into a specific word count but it did prompt me to write a little more on some questions than I otherwise would have done which, hopefully, will improve the marks. Anyway, it’s off so it’s just the final chemistry question to complete tomorrow.

I came across a neat site which converts any website into an Android application so I’ve put on four trial ones. They look fine on the ASUS tablet but I’ll need to rejig the style sheet a bit to tidy up their appearance on Android phones. I may need to get myself an Android phone to really try them out too. No downloads as yet but then they’ve only been on a couple of days.

The materials for the Infectious Disease course arrived yesterday. No big surprises there as I picked up a copy of the pre-course briefing last year. I’ll have to get going on reading it properly soon as I want to get that well underway before I need to start the chemistry revision and indeed the pre-course work for the chemistry summer school for that matter. Oh, and the two assignments that’ll fall due in the midst of that revision time too. It’s going to be a hectic time for me in May and June.

 

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How to be a legal illegal immigrant in the UK

Many years ago when Wendy was first in the UK we applied for and received a European residence permit but after we went to France we didn’t bother to renew it.

To get the European family permit (ie entry clearance visa) whilst we were in France would have entailed a three or four day trip to the embassy in Paris and a wait of anything up to a year. This made it impractical for us so we didn’t bother and instead just went without the visa. Wendy’s Australian so doesn’t need a visa to get into the UK but as it turned out, the immigration people at Rosslare just accepted our statement that we were living in Belfast and let us pass.

So, we’re in the UK sans visa. Interestingly, since there’s no requirement to register with local authorities in the UK, there appears to be nothing stopping you just staying on regardless of what any stamp in your passport may say about when you should leave.

Anyway, to get Wendy legal we, in principle, are supposed to apply for a residence permit for her. Snag is that when we arrived the processing time for this was getting on for two years (despite the legal obligation for the authorities to do it within six months) and we knew that we needed to go back to France that summer. So we didn’t bother. Next time we came back the immigration people accepted our statement about living here (which we had been doing) and off we went again.

Since we’re notionally in the process of selling our place in France we knew that we’d need to go back there at some stage to finish packing etc. but didn’t know when so a two year processing time (during which time they keep your passport) also wasn’t on. Thus we find ourselves living in the UK for getting on for two years now with nothing to show any right to do so and nobody making any attempt to deport Wendy as yet.

The one problem is with social security who have already stated that they don’t believe Wendy is here legally but, despite their obligation to do so, have done nothing about reporting her to the border agency people although they do insist that we need a European family permit.

Funnily enough, we’ve since found that, courtesy of a determination made right here in Belfast, we were correct in our assumption that we didn’t need a European family permit to enter the UK. Just as well really since it’s a visa and you can’t get a UK visa when you’re actually in the UK as you can only get UK visas from British embassies and, of course, there are no British embassies in the UK.

What we are doing, somewhat belatedly, is applying for a European residence permit. At present, the advice is that we may be turned down for this (although we may not). Being refused this permit doesn’t appear to be a problem though as there are no limits to the number of applications and appeals that you can make (all of which are free) and you’re legal in the UK whilst they’re processing the application. Since it currently takes them about six months to process an application, all that you need to do is to reapply if/when you get the refusal and you’ve another six months legality. Weird, huh?

Quite why anyone bothers trying to stay here illegally when they can legalise things seemingly permanently so easily is beyond me.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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