After finally getting my award notice through (three flipping months), I found a nice sum in my bank account. Lovely. Then I checked my award letter and realised it was less than half what I was expecting. Not so lovely.
I’m due over Â£5k in student loans to tide me over as I qualify for the maximum. I have received less than half that. Now, it may be that the money is dished out in amounts per term which is fine if it’s in the rules. However, I can’t find anything telling me that.
Also, given that it’s three months since I applied to SAAS I have pretty much pre-spent the money that’s just come in. Had I been paying rent I’d have been utterly screwed and most likely have dropped off the course over a month ago.
I’m curious to know when I’d get the next payment. So I went to email them (they go home early on a Friday, lucky ducks) and received the following message when I hit “send”:
An error has been detected in the operation of this application. It is not possible to continue with your email to SAAS.
A report has been sent to the SAAS Web Support Team and the matter will be resolved as soon as possible.
Please accept our apologies for the incovenience. You should now close your browser session and try again later
Well, after waiting almost three months and giving up on phoning them, I emailed again yesterday and – amazingly – received a response this morning. I guess they’ve actually hired some staff or something.
The bulk of the mail is as follows:
I can confirm that as you had stated that you had lived in England before coming so Scotland we had to ascertain how long you Â had been in Scotland and that it was not just for educational purposes. Â I can also confirm that we received your residency form on 2 November 2009. Â Â I have now calculated your award and you will receive an award notice in the next 7 days.
But it still doesn’t explain why I’ve waited since September 9th to receive any feedback. The “residency form” at no point explicitly asked me when I was living in Scotland. Had they wanted evidence of that, I could have provided it. It was wholly geared at when I entered the UK – not Scotland. A such, it was a pointless letter to send me.
Really, though. Seven weeks to send out a useless form and four more to respond to it by the time the award notice arrives – after a complaint.
I’m really glad this is a one-year course and I won’t have to deal with them again. If I do opt to do a Primary PGDE then it will be self-funded so this hassle won’t be an issue.
SAAS are still defying belief as one of the most inept government departments I have ever dealt with. And that’s facing some stiff competition.
Following on from the last letter I received and responded to, I have waited a month and heard nothing. I called them (or tried to – see earlier posts) with no luck. I just tried again using the “real” phone number I got from Say No To 0870 (0131 476 8212) and was stuck with an automated system.
It politely took my reference number and said they had received my application and to check again in two weeks. What’s the betting this is the same message I would have been given 3 months ago?
So I thought I’d check on my student loan. Only the nice electronic voice informed me that I’d have to enquire directly with the student loans company which I can’t do as I’ve not got an account with them yet because SAAS are sat around with their thumbs up their backsides flossing their teeth with my application.
I then navigated around to speak to a representative. And the nice machine told me the office was closed. A surprise as it’s not a public holiday in Edinburgh and time I called was right in the middle of the working day as advertised on their website.
I’ve sent them another email via the website, this time a complaint rather than a query. They say they get back to these within 10 days. Mind you, they say they get back to queries within 15 and I’ve never had a response yet.
For those who’ve tried to call SAAS recently, I’m guessing you likely had a nightmare getting through to them on the phone. I tried last week, and it took me about 20 attempts not to get a busy tone. I was then placed on hold for 35 minutes until I gave up in disgust.
Pamela responded to one of my earlier posts and tells me she’s racked up Â£200 in phone calls trying to sort out her matter with them. Will someone kindly explain to me why a government office dealing with people who are stereotypically amongst some of the poorest in the country can be allowed to only publish an 0845 contact number? One that – as far as I’m aware – isn’t included in any mobile contract’s free minutes? Indeed, in BT’s landline contract either.
Calling this number generates revenue for the people at the other end so it’s in their best interests to keep you on hold. If they picked up quickly and dealt with matters swiftly then it would only be a minor inconvenience, but they don’t. First of all you stay on hold for an age, then if anyone ever speaks to you they only take your details beforeÂ referring them up to some ape in a suit whoâ€™ll shove them on a pile while he sits there wondering if his banana tastes better before or after heâ€™s shoved it up his bum.
Then 8 months later finally send you out a letter completely unrelated to your query.
At least I can help you call them for less, though I can’t guarantee they’ll bother answering your query or – heaven forbid – actually send you any money. Courtesy of the rather excellent Say No To 0870 website, I can inform you that the landline number to call is:
0131 476 8212
This is the general main number alternative. There isn’t one listed for the specific departments they have on their website, but the menu system is apparently the same as the main one. In other words you get through to the exact same place as if you’d rung the rip-off 0845 number.
For those who don’t know SAAS is the government body responsible for withholding as much cash as possible instead of dishing it out to students in Scotland to pay things like course fees, and buy things like food.
Yes, you guessed it. It’s a complaint.
A few weeks ago I filled out their exhaustive online application. This took about 20 minutes and, had I been a dependent, would have gone as far as requesting my parents’ National Insurance numbers. Pretty thorough, it must be said.
Then nothing for almost five weeks until a letter arrived. Prior to this, I was checking the website for an update on my status… which consisted of a page telling me to ring them if I hadn’t had a letter within a month. Great stuff. Very “Web 2.0“. Not.
So this letter duly arrives. “Please fill in form AB10E so we can decide if you are eligible to receive support”. OK, fine. More rubbish.
Date of birth… place of birth… Surname… Address… Parents’ address…
Yes, all previously given in the online application.
Then: Date you became resident in the UK. Reason for entering into the UK. Have you ever paid UK Income Tax? If so, give details.
What. The. Fu…?
Am I reacting a little too harshly when I replied to the “Reason for entering” question with the following:
Mother went into labour. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
Or by stating that all the addresses I have lived at since I last entered the UK are “not flipping applicable as I never left”? The fact they give you a small box 7cmx3cm with 5 dotted lines to write down what could be a handful of addresses is a little pathetic also.
Perhaps I have made my point as, instead of giving them my address before taking up residence in the UK, I told them:
I have always been resident on the UK. My parents also. And my grandparents (except for a brief period in 1945 when my paternal grandfather helped storm Normandy). Is this clear enough for you?
As for the income tax question:
I worked, I paid tax. As a British citizen, this is how it works. What details could you possibly need? My national Insurance number is [ahem]. Knock yourself out.
As for the “any other information” box, I just managed to squeeze in:
I am British. I was born British. I have held a British passport since I was around eleven years old. Prior to that I was on my mother’s (British) passport. I have always been ordinarily resident in the UK. I have only been abroad for holidays. I am feeling somewhat annoyed at my nationality being called into question when I made it clear I was British on my initial application.
Given that I’m sending this to a government office, who honestly thinks anyone there will really give a flying fruitbat that all they’re doing is wasting time? I gather from others’ stories that SAAS really suck at their jobs at the best of time. Now I know the depths to which they’ll stoop to try and avoid handing out money which is supposed to be handed out.
Mind you, it seems that withholding money from those who actually need it whilst dolling it out to every Britney, Chantelle and Kylie that comes screaming for it is the British thing nowadays.