Passport office staff say 500,000 application backlog will get worse

Passport office staff say 500,000 application backlog will only get WORSE as summer holidays for millions are put at risk by ‘rock bottom morale’ and ‘creaking’ computer systems

  • Passport Office staff warn 500,000 backlog is ‘beginning of lengthy scenario’
  • Leaked messages reveal staff are using systems that are ‘not fit for purpose’
  • Ten-week target to approve passport applications is continually being breached 
  • Home Office minister has promised 700 new staff in a bid to tackle the backlog 
  • Passport office staff have warned the 500,000 application will only get worse as summer holidays are put at risk by ‘rock bottom morale’ and ‘creaking’ computer systems. 

    A series of leaked messages have revealed the 10-week target to approve passport applications is continually being breached, with staff accusing Teleperformance – a French-owned private firm that has a £22.8million five-year contract to provide ‘passport advice service’ – of ‘poor’ and ‘misleading advice’. 

    Britons trying to get their passport renewed have been left worried their booked holidays won’t be going ahead following report of families being left on hold for hours before being told by customer service staff working from home that they cannot access files to provide an update on applications.

    However, an investigation by The Times found that staff are using systems that are ‘not fit for purpose’ and are worried the backlog is just the ‘beginning of a very lengthy scenario’. 

    The digital processing of applications has also been heavily criticised by passport office staff who claim the system was implemented too soon after the Covid pandemic and is subsequently ‘deeply flawed’ and ‘half-working’. 

    One whistleblower called the system a ‘big fail’, which has forced staff to use an old, slower method.

    The usual wait for a passport is around five weeks, but target waiting time has been increased on HM Passport Office website to 10 weeks as officials struggle to keep up with demand. 

    Passport office staff have warned the 500,000 application will only get worse as summer holidays are put at risk by 'rock bottom morale' and 'creaking' computer systems

    Passport office staff have warned the 500,000 application will only get worse as summer holidays are put at risk by ‘rock bottom morale’ and ‘creaking’ computer systems

    It comes after Boris Johnson summoned Passport Office bosses to Downing Street last month to explain the passport renewal chaos. Pictured: The PM holds up one of the new passports on a flight to Newcastle Airport

    It comes after Boris Johnson summoned Passport Office bosses to Downing Street last month to explain the passport renewal chaos. Pictured: The PM holds up one of the new passports on a flight to Newcastle Airport

    Unofficial waiting times for adult passport renewals in the past two years, shown in a graph from passportwaitingtime.co.uk

    Unofficial waiting times for adult passport renewals in the past two years, shown in a graph from passportwaitingtime.co.uk

    People queuing outside the passport office in Peterborough, as Brits face lengthy delays for passport applications due to a combination of staff shortages and a surge in post-Covid travel

    People queuing outside the passport office in Peterborough, as Brits face lengthy delays for passport applications due to a combination of staff shortages and a surge in post-Covid travel

    Currently appointments cannot be booked online for many services and customers have reported being cut off over the phone amid fears over a summer of cancelled holidays as a result of the enormous backlog in applications. 

    Despite this, Home Office minister, Tom Pursglove admitted last week that the current 10-week target of processing applications is not ‘guaranteed’.

    Mr Purglove said passport offices across the country will be reinforced with an additional 700 staff ‘by summer’ in a bid to quickly process millions of outstanding passport applications.

    The backlog has been blamed on a sudden rush in demand for new passports following a lull during the two years of Covid-enforced travel restrictions.

    Officials have argued that holidaymakers have put off their passport renewal until they needed to go abroad as a result.

    Post-Brexit travel rules from the EU have complicated matters further as they require travelling Britons to have at least three months validity remaining when travelling to EU member nations.

    People queuing outside the passport office in Peterborough to get applications quicker

    People queuing outside the passport office in Peterborough to get applications quicker

    Holidaymakers were pictured in long queues form at Durham passport office two weeks ago

    Holidaymakers were pictured in long queues form at Durham passport office two weeks ago








    The Government expects 9.5 million British passport applications to be dealt with in 2022 – almost double the number processed last year.

    It comes after Boris Johnson summoned Passport Office bosses to Downing Street last month to explain the passport renewal chaos which has seen 700,000 outstanding applications still to clear amid fears over a summer of cancelled holidays.

    French-owned firm which runs Passport Office’s contact centre is ordered to hire more people 

    The French-owned company contracted to run the Passport Office’s contact centre has been ordered to hire more people to ease ‘unacceptable’ delays.

    Teleperformance, the private firm responsible for the office’s call handling, has been ‘urgently tasked to add additional staff’ by the Home Office.

    The head of the Passport Office, Abi Tierney, will discuss Teleperformance’s problems with its chief executive this week, according to The Times

    The company has been heavily criticised by exasperated applicants in recent weeks. 

    The Home Office has a £22.8million five-year contract with Teleperformance to provide ‘contact centre services’ including a ‘passport advice service for HM Passport Office’.

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    The Prime Minister is said to be ‘horrified’ at the backlog – but the Home Office insisted today that the agency’s £160,000-a-year director-general working from home at her village property in Leicestershire, 100 miles away from its London headquarters, has ‘precisely zero bearing on the current situation with passports’.

    Abi Tierney, 48, who was appointed as director-general in early 2020 when the pandemic began and lives with her two young sons, is battling to control the chaos as customer services teams continue to work from home.

    Home Office sources said Dr Tierney, who is responsible for leading 3,500 Passport Office staff, spends most of her time working at its centres around Britain – including in London, where the headquarters is located in Victoria.

    Meanwhile, an Edinburgh family were forced to cancel their long-awaited trip to Disneyland after passport delays meant they were unable to travel. 

    Stuart McLean, his wife, Claire, and their two young girls were due to head to Paris for a five-day trip to mark their five-year-old’s birthday this month.

    Applying for passports for both girls in February, the family were told that the wait time would be five to seven weeks, allowing plenty of time before they headed off.

    However, Stuart, 35, said that unexplained delays in the passport office had seen one of the passports arrive after four weeks, with the other nowhere to be seen.

    With one passport still nowhere to be seen, the couple made the decision to cancel the trip less than two weeks before they were due to head off in order to ensure they got their £3,000 costs back.

    Stuart said: ‘We had been taking our daughter for her fifth birthday, and had applied for the passports at the start of February.

    ‘One came within four weeks but there was no sign of the one for our two-year old.’

    As their departure date of May 10 continued to get closer, the McLeans were unable to get through to the passport office for an update, and were then made aware their flights had also been disrupted and easyJet had cancelled their return flight.

    Stuart added: ‘At point it was two weeks to go, we were looking at alternative return flights but Air France was a lot more expensive and we still hadn’t got anything from the passport and you can only get a refund from Disneyland if you cancel less than a week before.

    Officials have claimed that families have waited too late to begin renewing their passports

    Officials have claimed that families have waited too late to begin renewing their passports

    ‘We had spent in total around £3,000 on the trip so we cancelled the full thing to make sure we got the money back.’ 

    The father-of-two said: ‘We had had it booked for about seven months, the last couple of years the kids have really struggled, they have had all their classes groups and nursery things cancelled so we just wanted to give them a nice holiday.

    ‘But we were planning to surprise my daughter on the day we flew for her birthday so luckily she was none the wiser.’

    Britons say ‘nightmare’ months-long delays to passport applications have left their summer holidays in doubt

    BY JAMES ROBINSON FOR MAILONLINE

    Britons say their holiday plans are being thrown into doubt because of ‘nightmare’ delays in receiving their new passports.

    Families say they fear missing out on long-awaited trips because they have not yet received the important travel documents – despite applying for them months ago.

    One family revealed how they are yet to receive a passport nearly two months after ordering it – even after shelling out an extra £120 to ‘fast track’ their application.

    Meanwhile, a wedding photographer said she faces losing out on a £3,000 job in France because her passport has not arrived – despite her applying for it back in September. 

    One family told MailOnline how they face losing out on a £1,200 holiday to Spain next month because they are still without one of their passports.

    Ellie Freeman, from Nottinghamshire, said her family (pictured) are still waiting on one passport in order to travel to the Spanish coastal town of Tossa Del Mar next month

    Ellie Freeman, from Nottinghamshire, said her family (pictured) are still waiting on one passport in order to travel to the Spanish coastal town of Tossa Del Mar next month

    Ellie Freeman, from Nottinghamshire, said her family are still waiting on one passport in order to travel to the Spanish coastal town of Tossa Del Mar next month.

    Her and her partner Jordan ordered passports for themselves and their two children, one aged four and the other 9 months old, at the start of March.

    At the time, the Passport Office recommended a wait time of between three and five weeks – meaning the couple had given themselves plenty of time.

    They have since received three out of four passports, but are still awaiting the travel document for their youngest child.

    Desperate to go on holiday, the couple say they shelled out an extra £100 in order to ‘fast track’ the passport application with the hope of receiving it within a week.

    But with the days ticking down to their flight, they are still yet to receive the travel document.

    Hotel worker Ellie, 26, who also missed out on a trip to Corfu in May last year due to Covid restrictions, said: ‘It’s been an absolute nightmare.

    ‘And it’s the hope that’s making it worse. I would rather they just say it won’t be here, because we have to make plans.

    ‘I’ve seen some people getting there’s 48 hours before – which is fine if it’s a stag weekend abroad, but it’s hard if you have children because there is lots of planning involved.’

    Ellie’s partner Jordan, 27, who works in customer services, said the couple face losing all of their money as a result of the passport delays – because it is not covered on travel insurance.

    ‘We’ve been left in limbo,’ he said. ‘We’ve gone without a lot of extras to save up just to go on holiday as a family

    ‘If they had just told us a few weeks ago we might have been able to make changes to our booking but this close to the travel date it is non-refundable. So we are going to lose that £1,200 if we can’t go.’

    One photographer also told MailOnline how she faced losing £3,000 worth of business because of the issue.

    Kerri Cuthbert, who runs a photography business, Rockford Studio, in Devon, said she ordered a new passport in September after her previous passport expired.

    But she says she is yet to receive the travel document – forcing her to cancel a wedding job in Bordeaux in June.

    She said: ‘It’s now nearly May, and I am due to travel in June, and I have now had to inform the bride and groom at very short notice that they will need to look for a plan B. 

    ‘It is a huge loss to my already suffering business post-lockdown, of nearly £3,000, along with the time already spent planning with the client. 

    ‘I renewed my passport back in September when it expired. At first they said it might have been lost and I’ve been toing and froing trying to find out where it is.

    ‘I only received a message three days ago to say it had turned up. This will have a massive impact on me trying to get my business going again after the pandemic.’ 

    Kerri Cuthbert

    Kerri Cuthbert

    Kerri Cuthbert (left and right), of Devon, said she ordered a new passport in September but is yet to receive it – forcing her to cancel a wedding job in Bordeaux in June

    Another holiday hopeful also told MailOnline how they now face losing out on £1,800 due to delays in receiving their passport.

    Kym Wylnp said she planned to take her daughter and her four-year-old son away to Spain next month.

    The 62-year-old local authority worker her daughter’s passport has been delayed and without the document she is unable to order a passport for her son.

    ‘She needs the passport in order to order he son’s passport because she needs ID. We ordered them in January so we thought it would be here by at least April. It’s been an absolute nightmare.

    ‘We’ve been teaching him (my grandson) little bits of Spanish and I’ve been paying for swimming lessons because there’s a waterpark.

    ‘He’s only four, so he’s had half of his life disrupted by Covid, and this is the last chance to go on a holiday out of school terms. It would be a real shame if he couldn’t go.’

     

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