The business of prior appointments on the internet to do procedures with the administration

BarcelonaWhen Xavier turned 65, he wanted to process his retirement and requested, as is appropriate, an appointment with Social Security. It didn’t take long to sense the nightmare. “A calendar appears two months ahead and you can choose a date or have the computer give you one: but it doesn’t matter what you choose, because when you confirm it, it always says that that day is full.” Been trying to talk to someone for 8 months. “It’s a feeling of total helplessness.” Maria, an administrator by profession, says that this has been happening since the pandemic. She was there for work and also personal reasons. “Before, in four or five weeks they would give you an appointment, now it’s downright impossible,” he says. After many days trying to ask for an appointment for a personal procedure, in Piera, he was only offered three options, in Vic, Amposta or Tremp: hundreds of kilometers away. “And you access it, because the deadline for doing the procedure expires, and you arrive on the day and time you are due and you think that it will be full; and it turns out that it is not. There is no one there, neither in front of you nor behind you. They are alone. There are only the officials, sitting at the desks,” he says in surprise. Vera, 39, has had better luck and after five days in a row of trying to make an appointment – ​​several times a day – to process unemployment, she finally found one, close to her home.

These cases are not isolated. In fact, the situation is a widespread trend. This newspaper has been able to verify that it is practically impossible to make an appointment to do a formality with the administration (especially for issues affecting unemployment, pensions and some foreign aid and formalities) via the internet. This is also corroborated by an intense investigation by the Civio Foundation, which in March decided to track, three times a day, the appointments available in all Spanish offices, for two weeks in a row with the help of a computer robot. In 16% of the offices they never found a hole. And Barcelona enters the top ten of the most complicated provinces.

These invisible virtual queues lead citizens to seek the support of social organizations or to pay specialized agencies, but they also bring to the fore much more murky businesses. On Friday of last week, for example, the Spanish police arrested around seventy people (including lawyers and managers) across the country, accused of booking and blocking hundreds of foreign online appointments with a computer program which were then returned to the most desperate citizens for a price of between 30 and 200 euros. It is not the first time, since the prior appointment was imposed on procedures, that there have been operations of this type.

In fact, these illegal practices are widely known among companies and entities that work in this sector. “I could tell you several places where, for 50 euros, they give you an already made reservation. It is a widespread practice. It is known in the sector that this happens and there are people in extremely vulnerable situations, for example, because they need papers, who they use”, explains Núria Borrut, coordinator of economic activity projects of the neighborhood plan of Barcelona City Council and point of reference for the Xarse project, which accompanies citizens to complete this type of bureaucratic procedures.

Structural problems

Borrut explains that, beyond the illegal practices “of the mafias that take advantage of the situation”, the constant blockade also shows a fundamental structural problem of the administration, a fact that could chronize the situation. “Apart from the lack of resources and staff, the technicians we talk to tell us that the workforce is aging and since the pandemic they have incorporated a lot of telework, which makes face-to-face care difficult. I personally think that there is also there is a clear problem of organization and even lack of respect for people”, he considers. “The issue is particularly serious in Social Security and abroad, because there are no appointments directly, not electronically; nor do they give you one if you go to the office, they send you back to the internet,” he says.

The situation pushes many families to the limit and can delay the collection of key procedures for months, especially for the most vulnerable people, such as the approval and collection of the pension or unemployment, the granting of the Minimum Income Vital, the renewal of documents or even the processing of residence or work papers to avoid the situation of illegality in Spain. “And in all these cases the administration’s lack of response is no longer only when granting the essential prior appointment to do anything, but also in subsequent communications with citizens, with erroneous or complicated texts and requirements to understand, lack of constant information in the letters and, above all, the total impossibility of being able to talk to someone who can help you solve the problem”, concludes Borrut. After eight months of trying to retire, Xavier is also clear: “I have the feeling that the administration is only there to issue fines, never to help you get paid.”

Source: – Portada by

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