Saturday, 15 September 2012

Adventures in red tape

In case you haven't heard, I moved from Brisbane, Australia to London, England last week. Bit of a change if I'm honest. I quit my comfortable, safety-net job and landed in London with a plan to live with my brother and his fiancee and hope that... well, hope that everything turned out ok.

The most daunting part of this whole expedition (other than the flying part, of course) was getting a job. Europe has made no secret of its tough economy and from what I read in the media, jobs are few and far between. So my plan has always been to get a bar job and study to attain my referee's certificate and start refereeing football.

I signed up for my referee's course before I left Australia so I had already outlaid £130 in the hopes it would lead to steady work (and, in all honesty, career advancement to say, refereeing the women's world cup!?)

So you can imagine my surprise when I found a pub that I fell in love with, cheekily asked if there were any jobs going, was asked to drop off my resume and attended a job interview where I actually answered the question "So how long have you been in England for?" with "well what day is it? Tuesday? Then one week and one day!" I got the job.

Turns out that was the easy part. I am a British citizen thanks to my lineage so I am entitled to work here. I am also entitled to not work here and claim benefits. But I've never claimed benefits in Australia and so I don't plan to do that in England either. Upon being offered a job, it became apparent that I needed a bank account for being paid and a national insurance number (NIN). Back in Australia, this is like a tax file number, I guess.

Making the call to get the NIN was horrible. The woman on the other end of the line sounded a special breed of mind-numbingly bored of her job and very suspicious of my motives.
"And why do you want a NIN, miss?"
"Because I want to work. I've been offered a job and I'd like to take it."
"And why don't you already have a NIN, miss?"
"Because I've only just got to England."
"So when did you get to England, miss?"
"A week ago. September 3."
"A week ago? And you say you already have a job, miss?"

Not the best response, apparently. So I have an appointment with them on October 1. Might have been earlier without the attitude, I suppose. But today I got my letter explaining when my appointment would be and how I needed to bring proof of identity and proof of address.

I got excited about this letter coming today because I planned to go into town to open a bank account. This letter, sent to me at my address from a government agency would be great proof of address to get my bank account. Or so you would think. I chose Barclays because they sponsor the English Premier League and I've always wanted a Barclays account. They turned me down because my letter from a government agency was not sufficient proof of address. I needed something more - you know, like a bank statement. The lovely Barclays' guy, who saw the obvious redundancy of the situation since I was sitting with my brother, who I live with and who has all the proof of address they needed, had a minor coughing fit that sounded something like "Go to Lloyds of London. They'll probably give you a bank account but do it today before this bank account application denial goes on your record and nobody will give you a bank account." I hope he feels better soon.

So on a hunch, Seamus and I went to Lloyds. Barclays guy was right. They didn't care that all I had was a letter of confirmation of an appointment with the NIN people as my proof of address. Not at all. But they were not taking my word for it that I had a job lined up. No sir. They wanted a letter from my future employer stating they would be letting me work behind their bar. Seriously. To open a freaking bank account. Not a credit card, I didn't want their money, just an account for my own money to sit in and the bank to earn interest on. But of course, I didn't have this letter of employment yet because I needed to provide my future employer with some bank account details for them to complete my employment. Oh yes. Bureaucracy gone mad!

So I had to traipse up the hill to my pub to get my future manager to write a letter saying "Yes, Samantha will be working for minimum wage pouring beers for the good people of London. Please, for the love of Batman, give her a damn bank account so our patrons can get beer!" Or something to that effect.

I returned, letter in hand (with a With Compliments slip stapled to it, for that official touch) to finally get a bank account with Lloyds of London. Now I can start work at The Castle tomorrow.

On the way home, I nearly died of laughter when I realised something.

The NIN people mailed me a letter demanding my proof of address.
I opened a bank account using the NIN people's letter demanding I get proof of address.
I will get a bank statement with this same address on it.
I will take this bank statement, obtained using the letter of demand to get proof of address, to my appointment with the NIN people and use this statement as my proof of address.

Red tape. Not half as sexy as it looks.
Miss SAMawdsley xx

  • Have you ever been the victim of bureaucracy gone mad?


  1. Nice to hear you managed to navigate the sea of bureaucracy. Good luck tomorrow. (Try not to injure yourself. :))

    1. Hahaha. Well I did double check with my manager that I will be OK to work tomorrow seeing as though I left the job interview on Tuesday, went home to wash dishes & promptly sliced my finger open good and proper on a union jack glass. He said I'll be fine to keep my hand dry. I'm slowly clueing him in to the fact that I am a klutz & I didn't list my 'negative personality traits' as "I am naive and a little ditzy." so he can't say I didn't warn him... xx

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  3. There is nothing wrong with claiming benefits in Australia or any other nation, for those who have previously paid their weight in taxes or are studying to do just that. Please don't make such a "there's something wrong with you if you do claim benefits" "between the lines" statement like that, Sam. I expected more from you than that. Some of us claiming benefits have had to do so for very valid reasons. It took me 2 years to claim benefits after I lost my job to my injuries, because of judgemental people.