SUCCESS! I was finally able to get through to a human being, ringing at 8.00 a.m. precisely. He understood my situation perfectly, explained to what degree I would benefit from making voluntary class three contributions and passed me via a reliable line to a colleague, who gave me the crucial 18 digit number. I have made the payment online, without significant further complications (I trust!). I am greatly relieved, BUT the process has been unpardonably exasperating, owing to the inefficiency of the call system. The two human beings with whom I spoke were both incredibly helpful; it is the bureaucracy that is failing everyone! Good luck to you all!
Please don’t ask me to contact the NI “helpline”. I have explained that this is futile, since all calls are automatically cut off. If you read the content of the messages above, you will see that everyone is experiencing the same problem.
According to my NI contributions record, I have a shortfall. Eager to pay additional contributions, I rang the relevant department several times and was warned each time that lines were busy and that I “might be cut off before an adviser became available”. This happened every time, from which I inferred that people in my position are cut off automatically, since no one is manning the phones. I shall try writing, but expect this to be ineffectual, too. Any honest advice on how to proceed would be gratefully acknowledged; recommendations that I ring premium telephone numbers will be considered disingenuous, since phone calls are never answered. I have to do this before July of this year.