BSB pushes back deadlines for clearing work backlogs

Neale: Making steady inroads

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has pushed back the deadlines set for clearing backlogs in its handling of misconduct reports and authorisations.

Director general Mark Neale said the cyber-attack on the BSB earlier this year, which resulted in its case management system being inaccessible between 14 April and 20 May, meant both backlogs had built up.

Although productivity had recovered, they would not be cleared before the end of the year.

At its meeting in July, the board of the BSB heard that, while the pandemic and the cyber-attack had both reduced performance, the “core reason” for worsening timeliness in dealing with matters was a “lack of resilience in the team to deal with staff turnover, the increase in complexity of the work and address fluctuations in the volume of cases.”

Mr Neale told the board’s meeting last week that staff were now clearing roughly 30 more misconduct reports every month than they received, meaning they were making “steady inroads into the backlog”.

However, “higher numbers of reports in July and August – up nearly 40% compared to this time last year – has meant that our original estimate that the backlog would be cleared by October/November has been pushed back to the end of the calendar year”.

Mr Neale went on: “The backlog of authorisation applications, which had been largely eliminated by the end of 2021/22 has grown again as a result of the cyber-attack.

“Only a small number of overdue applications are over eight weeks old, however, and we expect to clear this backlog within three months. Our focus now is on completing by the year end the authorisation of pupillage providers.”

Mr Neale said that when the days lost to cyber-attack were discounted, performance in handling reports and authorisation applications within the prescribed periods was close to targets.

He said reports and queries “both increased” in the first quarter of 2022/23 “but in the case of the former, not as sharply as the corresponding quarter of last year”.

Mr Neale said the quality of BSB decisions was high. “There were no successful appeals against the imposition of administrative sanctions or against the decisions of the independent decision-making body in the first quarter.”

In order to “reinforce independent quality assurance”, a second independent reviewer has been recruited.

The director general added: “The impact of the cyber-attack will be felt for some time. Teams will need to balance reducing the backlog of cases that built up during the attack with dealing with new cases as they arrive.”

He warned that the impact of the ‘bow wave’ effect on the BSB’s performance would be felt “for at least the next two quarters”.

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