Monday, 24 October 2011

I'm going home. Back to Belgium.

This country has started to drive me absolutely mad. The house is almost ready to live in as all rooms bar one have been decorated and just need the final polish and eventual hanging up of pictures etc, etc.

I went and signed on at Crewe's wonderful Job Centre where it seems to be cool to be seen hanging outside, covered in tattoos, cider in hand, dressed in a tracksuit while trying to keep a Staffie in control as you talk about how long you've spent inside. Obviously, the longer, the more impressive. I didn't quite fit in with that lot so decided to go inside and meet the charming, flame-red haired Wendi. I was pencilled in for the appointment as 'Zowie' which did, admittedly, make a change from the usual 'Zoey' or 'Zoei'. And I thought Belgium had problems spelling my name....

I followed Wendi, burdened with all my papers that I had been told to bring in, as she wobbled slowly to her desk.

"Right," she started, "What is your full name?" and then proceeded to ask me the usual, mundane questions that I get asked each time I go there.

"Have you got a Form 301?"

A blank cloud loomed over me as I wondered what on earth this could be. A fine? A speeding ticket?

"No, but I have brought in everything that they told me to bring in when I called Chester. Some is in French and some in Flemish - but I was told that that wouldn't be a problem as you have translators here."

Wendi studied the papers and slowly looked up at me and gave me a smile that meant, quite evidently that she wanted to say "like fuck we have" but instead chose to say "I'll take copies of these, if that's alright with you?" After about an hour of going through the papers that I had previously filled in, stating my address and wish to receive corresspondence there (errr.....where else?), my marital status, lack of dependent children, bank account, address (again), vital statistics and so on, I signed the papers, was told to sign on the next day and would be told how much JSA (Job Seeker's Allowance) I'd be entitled to within the next 2 weeks.

I signed on again but had still not received this mysterious letter from Chester and so, after having been told at the Job Centre that I wasn't entitled to anything, decided to make a few calls of my own. After having called the third number given by numerous people at numerous other numbers, it appears that I should be in possession of a U1 form proving that I was in the Belgium system when in Belgium.

The following day, I received a letter telling me that I was not eligible for JSA. No reason was given at all, just the fact that I am not, apparently, eligible for JSA. The letter was sent to.....Richard's.

Not the address that I put down on the papers that I filled in.

I decided to call the number given on the letter to ask why I am not eligible for JSA, simply to see what explanation they would give me.

"You need an U2 form."
"U2? What about the U1?"
"You need to provide an U2 form by next Friday."
"Belgian post is very slow, you know."
"You also need a letter giving you authorisation to seek work in this country."
"But I'm an EU National - surely I can WORK in this country?"
"No, I am sorry, but I'm reading by the guidelines and you definitely need this letter."
"And where do I get this letter from?"
"Oh, I'm sorry - I can't help you there."

I have carried on looking for work but have made it clear for my adviser that I really shouldn't be as I don't have this letter of authorisation from....well, your guess is as good as mine.

And then I went and called Belgium today for my U2 form.

Several pounds poorer and after dealing with a country which refuses to speak French - if you are a francophile and they're not - and I may be slightly closer to getting that U2 form.

It will take 4 weeks to arrive. If I qualify.

I'm thinking of moving elsewhere now.


Mr. Nighttime said...

Maybe Bono can expedite things for you...

Richard said...

It could be worse, they could make it more like Belgium for you and insist on everything in Welsh. I'm sure if I lived in Belgium I'd find it unbearable as it seems to be populated by bored expats

Peter in Belgium said...

It's 2011: Kafka rules.

Your Belgian U2 form should basically "export" your Belgian legal rights to receive benefits to the UK.

If they manage to translate it.

Anonymous said...

You should request your U2 from the RVA, since you were apparently living in Flanders.

Don't know how easy/difficult that will prove to be if you do this from Great Britain, ideally you should have requested the form before leaving Belgium.


Anji said...

Never take no for an answer. Often they can't be bothered to look things up properly...

Hope you don't starve to death in the meantime

Zoe said...

Claude, how was I to know? I asked at the ABVV about how things worked and they told me that all I had to do was register here. I thought it strange, but I had all my papers so..... "If you don't ask, you don't get." A direct quote from the Belgian Consulate here.

WV: tinglish - HA.

Bart said...

You dared say that you're a EU national? My god woman, they'll cover you with tar and feathers and throw you into the English Channel if you'd dare to repeat that feat! No wonder you're at the bottom of the stack now. The very last stack in the archive in the basement with that door that's blocked and where no public servant dares to thread because of all the ghosts...

Guyana-Gyal said...

Don't worry, will all get sorted out, and soon you'll be happily working.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Change your name to Mohammed.

Karen said...

I swear, after all the contempt I dealt with when I moved back to the U.K. following my separation from my deranged ex, I grew to hate my own country of citizenship! I was treated like an alien, and undesirable, refused any assistance when I was signed off work due to circumstantial depression. I am BRITISH for god's sake!! I am not brown, yellow or black...I'm white...LOL!
In a nutshell it was hell trying to re-integrate back into British society...I failed miserably.
Now I am remarried and live in the States, which, really isn't 'home' either. I'm still an ALIEN (green card holder). BAH!
I feel your pain Zoe and don't blame you for wanting to move again! I did. For my own sanity. (Although it's not much better here!)

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

I have a friend who works in a DSS call centre and he says they have quotas to fill, ie the number of calls dealt with per day... which means that each call must not last longer than a certain length of time... and as soon as the call goes over the limit then they can give the caller whatever they want just to make them go away. He does have a slight tendency to exaggerate, but he reckons that the key is to make those phone calls last as long as possible.

Martin said...

I don't actually have a comment!

Why did I start typing this?

I'm going senile at 50!

Keith said...

Typical! You let a little thing like the Job Centre put you off? Just wait until you come up against the Social Services. Now they REALLY know how to piss people off with their thousands of forms, endless means testing and probing into all your affairs from the day you were born. No, I mean the day when you were conceived.

bf8e148c-03d5-11e1-b9fb-000bcdca4d7a said...

when the Welsh stuff arrives, call me!

Ricardipus said...

You know, I'd suggest coming to live in Canada, but having attempted to hire a few foreign nationals recently, I'd have to recommend against it. While we're told right left and centre how we have a skills shortage in this country and need to hire more skilled foreigners (doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, computer programmers, whatever), when you actually try and hire one... it's bloody impossible. We have to jump through hoops to prove that we exhaustively searched for a Canadian with those skills that are in such a shortage.

Sorry, seems your plight has set off a rant here at Chateau Ricardipus. We now return you to your regular programming.

Elspeth said...

OMG, been so long since I looked at your blog ...years in fact tis Elspeth here from Australia. Can't belive you are in Crewe, cos that is where I used to live. Jezz small world eh!

Zoe said...

REALLY, Elspeth? Now that's a second blogger from here..... Whereabouts did you live?

Hannah Joy Curious said...

Mmm... sounds a bit like the place where I was born telling me I don't officially exist because my social security number - that I was given at birth - is not active as I never actually worked there. The fact that the same place still issues my passport - by way of consulate or embassy, depending on where I am - makes no difference whatsoever. My answer to that? Boycott the place of origin, preferably forever. It has worked quite well for the last 19 years or so and I intend to keep it this way. :-)

J said...

Wow, I thought only Germany was that bad. I never imagined that the UK would be too.

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