Working from home led to DVLA driving licence delays people lost jobs

Working from home during Covid fuelled such bad delays at the DVLA that people lost their jobs while waiting for a new driving licence, report by MPs finds

  • Up to 60 million phone calls went unanswered at the DVLA during the pandemic
  • While thousands of people faced delays of almost a year in getting a licence
  • Were YOU affected by DVLA Covid delays? Email [email protected] 

Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic led to such horrific delays at DVLA that people lost their jobs while waiting for a driving licence, a damning report by MPs has found.

Up to three million people who applied for licences from the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency since April 2020 experienced delays, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said, with 60 million phone calls going unanswered.

Were YOU affected by DVLA delays during Covid? 

Email [email protected]

MPs found the DVLA system to process applications is ‘slow, inefficient and in need of major improvement’ and relied too heavily on staff being on site. Coronavirus restrictions meant staff stopped going into the office, compounding delays further.

Those with medical conditions faced the worst set backs. Many apply by paper but  DVLA staff were not allowed to process these documents from home. It meant more than 33,000 people had to wait 200 days or more for licences, while 2,000 waited more than 350 days – almost four times longer than the 90-day target.

People who gave evidence to the committee described losing their jobs or income and being unable to start or return to work because of the delays, while drivers with medical conditions were hit the worst, PAC said.

Working from home fuelled serious delay in driving licence applications at the DVLA it led to people losing their jobs, MPs said (stock image)

The Department for Transport (DfT) was accused of taking a ‘hands-off approach’ and failed to ensure DVLA is using modern working practices and up-to-date technology. 

Dame Meg Hillier, chairman of the committee, said: ‘The pandemic inevitably made operations more difficult, but the DVLA and DfT were not prepared for the challenge of keeping essential driving licence services running – and especially not for those who needed it most.

‘Some of the DVLA’s operations are antiquated, it lacks a comprehensive strategy for modernisation and on PAC we’re unconvinced they’re more ready for the next crisis.

‘When that does arise, it will again be the most vulnerable customers – people for whom driving is a lifeline – who are worst hit. That’s just not acceptable. The DVLA has to get its act together.’

The PAC said some DVLA customers experienced isolation and worsening mental health when unable to go about their usual daily lives without a valid driving licence.

Between April 2020 and March 2022, around 60 million calls to the DVLA about driving licences went unanswered – 94 per cent of the total it received, it said.

The number of complaints about the DVLA received through MPs ‘increased tenfold’ between 2019-20 and 2021-22, the report said.

The PAC suggested the DVLA set up better systems for those experiencing delays, improve its communication with customers and implement a contingency plan to be shared with the committee.

More than 60 million calls to the DVLA went unanswered as delays spiralled for some people (stock image)

Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: ‘These shocking delays show that DVLA customers are being let down on an industrial scale.

‘Delays in getting a driving license are not just a minor inconvenience, they can lead to people losing their jobs or worsening mental health.

‘The Government and DVLA must get a grip, and ensure people no longer have to experience these unacceptable delays.’

A DVLA spokesperson said: ‘We are back to normal processing times across our services. All standard paper applications were back to normal turnaround times by May 2022.

‘Our online services worked well throughout the pandemic and for the vast majority of our customers, their dealings with DVLA would have been trouble free. 98% of people who applied online received their driving licence within just a few days.

‘During the pandemic, we issued more than 24 million driving licences, the vast majority of which were issued within three working days.’

A DfT spokesperson said: ‘The report does not represent a balanced picture of the work that has taken place in the department.

‘As well as ministers closely monitoring DVLA’s progress, we provided practical support during the pandemic, including establishing workplace Covid testing in Swansea and facilitating additional office space in Birmingham.

‘We continue to support DVLA’s investment in developing and promoting online services, as we did prior to and throughout the pandemic.’

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