Archive for the ‘Local Administration’ Category

What claim? Nope, haven’t any record of that…

One of the problems with the paperless age is that you don’t have a little piece of paper to prove that you did whatever you said you did.

Despite having left France at the start of 2009 to live in Northern Ireland again, we still have problems with both tax and social services administrations. Today it was time to tackle offices in two different countries once more.

First off was the French taxation people who basically seem to have the view that nobody leaves France and that even if they do, the rest of the world is basically just an extension of France. I came across this several years ago when someone posted a question about it on one of the French forums. Basically her problem was that she had left France almost a year before, her post redirection service was running out and several French departments wouldn’t accept that she’d left so were therefore continuing to send her assorted bills (and benefit payments). As it turned out, the only proof that she had really left which would be accepted was a Certificate de Residence from her mairie. Unfortunately, there aren’t any mairies outside France the the closest equivalent (ie her local council) had no such document that they could give her. In the end, she had to just let the redirection service run out and leave the various departments to work it out for themselves.

I’m merely at the first off-ramp from that particular road at the moment so today it was the turn of the French taxation people to have another form sent back to them pointing out that I haven’t lived there for well over a year now. Somehow I don’t think they’ll take any notice of that as they didn’t last year but I guess it’ll be out of my hands soon as my own redirection service is running out.

On the other side of the fence, getting fully into the UK system is proving to be equally difficult. This time last year the health service were refusing to believe that we intended to live here and were merely health tourists. Quite how one proves one’s intent to live somewhere (which is what they wanted us to do) is still beyond me but we wore them down in the end. Child benefit was particularly difficult and instead of the “couple of weeks” quoted initially it turned out to be closer to four months. The particular problem with that is that you need the Child Benefit number for other forms and the lack of it complicates life no end. The other little problem is that we just couldn’t work out a way to tell the French child benefit equivalent that we’d left and they should stop paying us and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still paying us.

At the moment, we’re working on the Child Tax Credit people who said last October that they couldn’t process our claim without a Child Benefit number, then they said almost two months ago when we finally could give them the Child Benefit number that it would take a “couple of weeks or so” to pay. Now they say they’ve no record at all of the claim!

Still, it’s nice to see European harmonisation of the taxation and social security systems. It would have been better to harmonise upwards in quality but I guess you can’t have everything.

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

Wading through the junk mail

One of the biggest problems in getting out of France is the sheer quantity of post and email that continues to generate.

This wasn’t so bad when we were actually working in the hotel as we were online daily and keeping on top of everything that came in but now that we’re away from that we don’t have nearly so much time to devote to that as it seems to need. For instance, in the past week I needed to go through dozens of pieces of post and thousands of emails only to find a mere handful that were relevant and needed action taken on them.

Despite France having quite a strict no-spamming law, the quantity of junk email coming from France far exceeds that from anywhere else in the world and almost all of it seems to contravene the French law. The reason why that should be is quite simple: French ISPs require anonymous logins to their mail servers so anyone can send anything and, of course, they do.

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

Administering French life from afar

One of the greatest hassles in our lives at the moment is that we’ve to try to sort out some administration with the French tax and social security people whilst we’re in the UK.

You’d think that it would be relatively easy to do as you can obviously use email, faxes, phone calls and even letters but in practice it just isn’t. For one thing, French fax machines seem to work on a different standard as other places as faxes from the UK aren’t accepted by the French fax machines that I’ve tried (even sending from a French fax machine!). Phone calls just don’t seem to get you anywhere and emails rarely receive any response. You might think that leaves letters as a workable approach but even that doesn’t always seem to work. In fact, the French lettre recommandé is the only approach to use but, of course, that’s not available outside France, is it?

Actually, even in France we found that the only really reliable way to do things was to visit the office concerned though flying over all the time is hardly a viable option.

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

Extricating oneself from the French administration

When we moved here it took us four years before all the various authorities recognised that we were actually living in France. That started quite a flurry of back-administration obviously and it still isn’t entirely cleared up (eg we still get three separate bills for the TV license).

However, it would appear that it’s going to take quite a substantial amount of time for the authorities to recognise that we have now left France and are no longer French residents. Although we ceased to be French resident in January we are still receiving reminders that we’ve not paid various social security and health charges some eight months on.

It’s not that we have ignored their demands for money though. In fact, we informed them in January that we had left, then again almost every month since using their Internet service, email, fax, letter and even recorded delivery letter. In fact, it would appear that all missives from us are completely ignored. Last week we even resorted to writing to them in English as it would appear that they don’t understand French!

Actually, that last letter from us was in a response to a demand from them that it would actually be illegal for us to pay!

Perhaps another couple of years will see it sorted out…

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

Are there any sensible lessons being learned following the Baby P fiasco?

So much went wrong in this particular case that it’s hard to know where to even start.

The social services have an awful lot to answer for in this one. For a start, although they didn’t directly kill Peter clearly their inept actions contributed to his death, one wonders whether a number of those involved shouldn’t be residing in jail somewhere at the moment? No, it won’t bring Peter back but it would send the strongest message to the social services people everywhere that the key social service that they should be providing isn’t money, it’s the protection of life. Disciplinary action is all very well but some jail time meted out is a much stronger message and one that seems more appropriate in this instance.

Related to this seems to be their inbuilt bias in favour of the underpriviliged. I don’t dispute that the social services generally are needed to support those on hard times, but their “keep the mother with the child” regardless of circumstances approach obviously didn’t work too well in this case. I’d also question their bias in favour of mothers too. We’d not have heard anything about Peter had his father been able to keep him and that’s how I’m sure we’d all have wished it to be. It’s definitely better for a child to be with a parent rather than being in care but that parent shouldn’t always have to be the mother as seems to be the case now.

Crazy as it seems, this attitude is what probably led to the doctor giving the killers the benefit of the doubt and thereby missing the injuries. That benefit of the doubt isn’t given to normal families as I found out when accused by a midwife of abusing my own son and frankly we felt at some risk of having him taken into care despite 1) him having no injuries and 2) the supposed abuse being merely a side-effect of him being born breech.

Then there’s the Orwellian handling of the case or rather information about the case as it’s proceeded. The court required all information that would identify the killers to be removed from websites around the world. Frankly the only thing that succeeded in doing was to create a feeling of revisionist history reminiscent of Orwell’s novel and has merely driven public commentary about the case to places like this. Even now, the notorious boyfriend can only be referred to as “the boyfriend” because he’s appealing against his conviction. Well, you would if you were him, wouldn’t you? After all, with the strong feelings that this case has generated his life in jail seems likely to be rather short and with an extremely unpleasant end.

That concealing of information is a major failing of this case. For instance, the government report couldn’t be handed out because it would identify some of the social workers. Let’s not forget that some of these people should be in jail; protecting them in this merely serves to let the authorities off the hook in terms of bringing the appropriate people to court. Thus, we only have the head of the social services section named (Liz Santry who one suspects won’t be a councilor after the next election).

Lot’s of lessons to be learned for sure. Let’s hope that the same mistakes aren’t repeated anytime soon.

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