Thursday, August 16, 2012

Government Forms Are Designed to Discourage

Last year I reached an age when I could apply for my Canada Pension Plan. Have you ever tried to fill out a government form?  I ended up having to phone them to find out what they wanted me to do. 

The first problem was that the form stated that if I had not lived in Canada my entire life, I needed to provide documentation.  I lived in England as a small child and had no idea where, or how to to get my hands on that sort of thing.  When I phoned they informed me that just applied to people who had lived outside of Canada from the age of 16 onward.  I read them the form where it clearly said "ENTIRE LIFE" and once again they said that if I was here all of my adult life not to just ignore that.  Then I read them the line at the bottom about making false or misleading statements.  I didn't want to be charged with an offence.  I see that entire portion of the form has now been eliminated and they just have a question about the possibility of qualifying for benefits in another country if you lived or worked there during your adult life.  I must hot have been the only one that called about that.

Then there is the section where you apply for the child rearing provision.  If a parent was at home during any part of the first 7 years so a chile's life, the Canada Pension might be increased to reflect that.  They give you plenty of room to list your children, but only one place to answer yes or no as to whether or not you were at home with them.  Well, ummmm.... I was at home with one of them right from birth though to the age of 7, but I was only home with my oldest from the time he turned 6 onward. There is no room to express that.  I was told to write it in the margin.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that's asked about that and I'm surprised that has not been fixed yet. 

The whole wording of  the child rearing provision portion of the form is also very confusing, and I think that is so people will give up trying to figure out what they are saying and just not apply for it.  That's pretty standard practice, I believe.

More recently I needed to renew my passport. There are portions of the simplified renewal form that also confused me.  I tried to phone the number given and got a lot of automated choices to choose from, but not one of them had anything to do with answering a question about the form, and there was no option to speak to a live person.  Instead of mailing this form in and getting it rejected, we decided to take it into the Canada Services office in Brockville.  It's a good thing too, as the lady had me change a few things, and initial the changes.  I told her there was one section of the form that confused me, but that was not where the changes had to be made.  She asked which section confused me, and when I told her she said that people were always putting strange answers in there.  Some of them were very creative, she said.  I hope that indicates to someone that this is another form that is not well designed.

Honestly, I do think the government designs forms to discourage people from filling them out.  Every time someone gives up and doesn't complete a form, the government likely saves money.  Well, it's not going to work on us now that I've discovered the Canada Services Office.  The lady there was very friendly and helpful.  I'll be sure to send my hubby there to get his Canada Pension Plan papers filled out correctly.  He doesn't like forms and I personally do not want to have to go through that form filling process again.

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