Where to begin with Student Finance England?

Before I went to university I worked very hard and saved enough money to cover my tuition fees. Then my at the start of my second year my circumstances changed and I had to move out of my parents house. Suddenly I had to find money for bills, rent and food and not just for me but also for my girlfriend who was currently on a placement which her university had given her over thirty miles away and was one which she would also spend the day driving around, the cost of petrol was immense and would only be partially refunded after the placement had finished.
This meant that her maintenance loan would be spent mostly on either petrol or accomodation, petrol worked out cheaper…just.

So with the money in my bank account quickly draining (I was still paying for tuition fee’s privately) I applied both for the then current maintenance loan and for next years tuition and maintenence loans, this was in october of last year. At first I did it online as this appeared to be the simplist and quickest hassel free method, but as I was tranferring to another university and repeating my second year I selected that I was a new student to that university but starting my second year. This caused the system to freeze up and I was told that I would have to send it off via paper applications.

So I printed and posted the forms, one month later I phoned as I had recieved no word from them, they said they had it and to call back in two weeks if I did not hear or receive anything after that point. Two weeks later having recieved nothing I called again and this time was informed that they had not recieved it, and that it must be sent off yet again.

I finally get my loan applications in late May informing me that they were not filled in correctly as it did not include my parents earnings which it actually did and they must have either lost or removed the section containing it. So I sent it off again, one month and SEVEN “assuring” phone calls later I recieve a congradulations letter with the driving licence and account details of a Nigerian lady. Naturally I called up and outright laughed at the message at the beginning where it says “at student finance we take your security very seriously…” they asked my to send the licence and details back (which costs money) and that my two applications were pending beause they were awaiting evidence.

Now lets get this straight, they have sent me someone elses data (a breach in the data protection act) and then expect me to send them my data and trust that it will come straight back to me without a third party having it posted to first? What is worse is that the letter sent to my address was
A. hand written
B. addressed to me

Hand written! someone had written my name down and address and never even checked the licence they were putting in the card!

I sent off my passport as what else could I do and recieved it back in early july with a letter stating that my application’s (please note that is plural so both 2010-11 and 2011-12) were being processed and should be completed on I believe it was the 6th of august. I was relieved, especially because we had planned a ten day camping trip the year before with my girlfreinds family and without the loan this could not happen, we would be leaving on the 11th of august. But having lost confidence in the company I phoned them anyway just to check that the document was correct, I was told that yes my application had been accepted, Luckily I caught that she said “application” singular, and so asked that does include both 2011-12 and 2010-11, the polite but clueless lady on the other side said “no, only your 2011-12 application has been processed, appaently your 2010-11 is still pending”.

Now come on! Had I not asked then nothing would have been done, she then told me that I would have to send off my passport, I outrightly refused, I had sent the passport already, they had recieved the details and accepted them for the other application. She informed me then that it was two seperate departments dealing with the two loans to which I pointed out were in the same building and same room. She then tried to lie and say that they were in different faciltiies, I told her that is a lie because both application forms had the same address, department, office and postcode on them, finally she told me to hold and put me through to a gentlemen who then told me that I I had placed my passport details on the application forms and as I am a British that there was no need for me to have ever sent off my passport in the first place! Are they taking the micky or what, they make me pay five pounds recoded delivery, try to make me do it again and then say I never had to.
After all of that the man said look I shall sort it all out, call back in a few days.

I called back and was informed that everything was okay and the money was due to go in on the 6th as the letter had stated.
Now we jump forward to the 6th of August, no money, I call and they said it had been changed to the 12th.

Reasonably confident I went on my camping holiday, the next day there was no money, I called and they told me to wait three to five days, I waited six days then called again and was told to wait another three to five days, I flipped. I told them that I had already waited six days, the lady then had a look on the system and said “right, yes, it is because your account is pending” this time it was because it was waiting for conformation from my university that I was attending, She told me that I would have to call them and get them to send conformation. Angry that I should have been told this at least a fortnight earlier I called the university who then told me they need a specific code from the student finance company which they should have given me and that they would need beore they could send conformation. This means that the utterly useless woman had told me to call the university knowing that I would then need to recall the student finance company to get a code and then phone the university again.
Then finally five days later my money came.

Collectivly my phone bill in total for them currently exceeds my overdrafft of three hundred pounds!

I cannot beleive the total incompetance, lying and poor organisation of that company. Whats more while it naturally makes perfect sense to have the call centre for student finance “ENGLAND” in Scotland (I mean I’m assuming Scotlands call centre is in Wales and Wales must logically be in England,) a lot of the people you speak to have very thick accents that are especially over the phone difficult to understand, I had to recall the university twice because I had misheard my code and in most conversations I have to get them to repeat themselves and speak more slowly. I do not mean to say that they are not polite and professional for the most part but when it forces the conversation to be twice as long (and twice as expensive) it does frustrate me and I do think that an accent easier for the majority of Englands student should be set in place. By this I mean perhaps lessons on how to speak more neutrally.

Additionally when calling them I have a few gripes too, when you call you are required to type in your account number and password, if do this while the machine is speaking (and it speaks forever) you run the risk of it missing the first few characters and so you have to repeat the process. Then finally when you have typed in everything and it has been accepted you have to repeat them again, why, if they have an automated identification method then surely that should automatically mean you dont need to repeat the securtiy questions and if it doesnt then why bother with it in the first place.

Also what is with this secret answer buisness? why ask for the specific characters, “please tell me three and six…” why cant I just say the whole dammed thing rather than having to write it down and count? It isn’t like they dont have access to all of my other sensitive details so it cannot be that they only see characters three and six and even if they did they have access to all my bank details and I know they do because when I changed my bank details with them I had to confirm the old account numbers and then tell them the new ones.

I is an utterly, utterly useless company, any other would be closed down either for security breach or inaction whichever came first.