Tales of incompetence

The Government Agency

The Monday following my Mum's death I telephoned the Pension Service (OK, Pension, Disability and Carer's Service, to use its full title ) to notify them of the fact. We had calculated that a payment was due to go out that week, and thought it better to ask them to hold the payment, rather than have to repay some money. The call went smoothly enough: I was able to establish that I had enough details for them to take my report on trust. I was told that I didn't need to send in the form that the Registrar would give us, as my telephone report was sufficient. They told me that my Dad would be entitled to a small increase in his pension as a result and then they asked if the balance owed to Mum should be paid into the same account as her other payments. That was fine: it was a joint account and the details would remain the same.

A week or so later Dad received a letter to tell him what his new payment would be. We waited four weeks, until the next four-weekly payment cycle that Mum was on, expecting the balance of her pension to be paid. As they had adjusted Dad's, it was natural to assume they had sorted out Mum's as well, although the lack of a letter was a little concern. When no money arrived my Dad rang them. It turned out that they had updated his pension but had forgotten to do anything to Mum's. This time we were assured that the money would arrive within 10 days.

still waiting

The Bank

Dad went to the next town, to his bank, to get the joint account changed to a sole account. Paperwork was copied and the manager had him put his card into a machine, put his PIN in, so we assumed the changes had been made. Until the bank statement arrived, in joint names, followed by a new cheque book for Mum. Phone calls to the bank's call centre followed and Dad was dealt with by the bereavement team. They were apologetic and sympathetic, whilst they chased up the paperwork from the local branch. We waited. A letter turned up, from the bereavement services team, pointing out that Dad had not supplied the death certificate. Another phone call, another apology and more efforts made to locate the paperwork at the local branch. Finally a letter arrived to say that the account had been changed and they hoped Dad was happy with the service. A standard letter, after over a month of hassle. Somewhat predictably, the arrival of a new cheque book in just my Dad's name was more distressing than the joint statement had been, but that's not the point.

The Catalogue

Mum had an account with a catalogue. Shortly after her death they happened to ring with an offer for her, as they tended to do. Dad told them about her death and they said they would close the account. Shortly after that a bill arrived, which was not unexpected, but had been forgotten about temporarily. Dad sent a cheque, which cleared his account at the end of September.

Then a letter arrived, about ten days later, advising that the account had been referred to their "probate specialists". Just another name for a debt collecting agency. So Dad rang the people named in the letter, who had no knowledge of this and said he should await their letter. A letter for which they would no doubt charge. I advised him to try the catalogue company to ask them what was outstanding, as all bills received had been paid, to the best of his knowledge. They quoted the balance as being the value of the cheque they had banked. It eventually transpired that they had closed the account, with the outstanding balance, without waiting for any payment to come in, so when the payment did arrive it went to their suspense account. The person on the phone located the payment and said he would be able to apply it to the account. This was a week ago and we are waiting for written confirmation of this. In not expecting it to arrive: I'm expecting a letter from these debt collectors staying they have put a claim in against probate, along with a scale of additional charges for what they are doing. For a bill that has been paid.

We are wondering if the Pension Service have lied to us twice and won't, in fact, pay the balance of Mum's pension until we demand it via probate. If that turns out to be the case, my complaint is ready.

The minute a letter arrives from this debt collecting agency another complaint will be lodged, with the catalogue, and a copy sent to the debt collecting agency with clear instructions that the executor will not entertain any claim against the estate until this is sorted, not week any additional monies be paid.

Right now, I am ready for a fight. Almost every agency we have had to deal with has been incompetent and has caused the family distress that they didn't need in the depths of their grief.