Spleen 2

Commenting about anonymity on another blog a few days ago, I realised I hadn’t posted anything meriting a digital balaclava for ages.

Time to put that right, because I have more spleen to throw at the LSC than ought to be anatomically possible. Not for its policy, although not lacking in reason for that, but for its utter inability to actually manage to perform its day to day operational activities, to wit: issuing and amending funding certificates.

First, a brief moment of reasonableness. I’m sure that the frontline is understaffed and under-trained and that it really isn’t their fault.

Now that is out of the way… How dare this bloody agency presume to lecture us on efficiency? A few months ago, the entire London operation for dealing with certificates was moved to Newcastle, not in itself a problem except that it seemed to come as a surprise to Newcastle, which remains so traumatised that it requires three attempts to get anything done. Was the move not planned for? If it was, who screwed it up?

Lots of lost or misplaced files later, the process is roughly as follows…

A four week backlog before anything is even considered, regardless of the actual urgency. No point in faxing because even if it gets through, as one minion told me on the phone, they don’t bother looking at the faxed stuff.

After four weeks, the APP1, APP8 or whatever will be sent back to us because:

  • you supposedly haven’t filled in bits that you have;
  • they demand irrelevant information;
  • they demand information you can’t provide (and have explained why).

So you send the form back, explaining. Now you are back at the back of the 4 week queue. What do you mean your devolved powers/emergency certificate ran out after four weeks? You should have marked it as urgent. Oh you did. Tough, it is in the pile now.

Now and again, for the sake of variety, when you call Newcastle, you are put through to Birmingham. Why? Has Newcastle got a bit of a headache? Or had a row last night and just isn’t up to taking calls? Birmingham seems eager to help, but can only tell you the application you are chasing ‘isn’t on the system’. Still it is nice to hear a different accent from time to time.

Then comes the decisonmaking, or wildly variable unsubstantiated guesswork, as we call it. While it is nice that the decision makers don’t feel the need to shackle themselves with the funding code and guidance, I personally prefer it when applying for a funding certificate does not resemble doing a lottery scratchcard.

So one often finds it is necessary to submit a reply to show cause, or an appeal, as one might have a hearing in the near future. Then one finds it necessary to submit it again, by fax and DX, because the LSC can’t find any trace of it. And then again, two weeks later, by fax and DX because the LSC has no record of having received it. This time, they might send it to the appeal panel. Who lose it. Can you send it again? By which time, the hearing and the matter is over. (Through gritted teeth, I must point out that this is not exaggeration for comic effect. This actually bloody happened).

This is Kafka, without the unexpected sex. The sheer scale of unattributable, unacknowledged incompetence would be epic if it had anything dramatic about it. But no, epic only in duration, it grinds on relentlessly, like bloody Wagner. This is the banality of evil, for it is malign, oh yes. There is a dark will underlying all this, a twisted spirit that hates light, laughter, kittens and litigation without frustration and despair.

I hate you LSC, there I’ve said it. I hate you and what you’ve made me become. (Exit weeping).

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Various (non-housing) and tagged , .

0 Comments

  1. I can remember the angst of trying to deal with the Legal Aid Board (as they were then) very well. Being given just three days to respond to something and then waiting weeks and weeks for them to deal with it. Wrestling with mindless paperwork. Endless hanging on the phone waiting to speak to someone. Having to grovel to LAB staff (all less qualified that me) to get anything done. All this is the real reason why we stopped doing legal aid.

    I was able to develop my Landlord-law web site in the extra time I had available after ceasing to do legal aid work!

  2. A truly superb rant!

    Reminds me of attempting to pass the criminal record checks on qualification: form sent back three times, once because they refused to believe I had been living abroad (I had), once because my referee signed in blue ink (it should have been black) and once just for the hell of it.

  3. Yes, nothing changes. I still recall the best explanation I ever heard for a file being lost, from the Bristol office. They told me it wasn’t lost, they were “temporarily unable to isolate it”, (i.e., it was still in the building, or with the shredding, probably . . .). I recall I was awaiting an amendment to take the next step in an action, which was then struck out for delay (because they couldn’t find the file). . . before being reinstated on Appeal, at public expense.

  4. My only dealings with the LSC these days are to make Representations. Last time – after waiting 2 months for a reply and writing 2 letters of complaint (which still remain unanswered) I was told the Representations department do not take phone calls, have no fax line and there was no one to refer my complaint to. I then received a standard reply which was backdated 2 months.

    I understand your frustration, it is vexing in the extreme!!!

  5. It irritates me intensely that if we make a mistake filling in a form, we get all sorts of black marks on our key performance indicators and stand to lose out on payment for the work we have done, no matter how good that work and how brilliant the result for the client; whereas if LSC people make a major mistake they simply shrug their shoulders and carry on being sanctimonious about solicitors.

    I think my favourite was the one where Newcastle disallowed all our costs on a judicial review because they said we never had a case at all as the action was against a voluntary aided (church)school which was, they said, essentially a private school and therefore not amenable to JR. It didn’t apparently occur either to the initial person assessing the bill, or his supervisor who was supposed to be double checking nil assessments, that it was the tiniest bit unlikely that extremely experienced education solicitors and counsel would have made such a fundamental mistake; nor did it occur to them to spend a couple of minutes checking the point on Google which would have demonstrated that voluntary aided schools are state schools and therefore public bodies. They reinstated it all, of course, but at the expense of several weeks’ further delay for which they paid no interest. I suspect that, far from being disciplined, the clerk in question got a bonus for causing the delay.

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