The key public services hit by Covid delays and working from home


Britons are facing delays in the processing of essential documents, such as passports and driving licences, with many civil servants still working from home.

The Government has encouraged workers to return to offices but some have defied this advice, placing pressure on essential public services.

While official work from home guidance was lifted on July 19 many workers have been reluctant to return to offices. Of about 484,000 government staff, some 21 per cent are based in London with each department making its own decision on how to manage flexible working arrangements.

READ MORE: Millions of employees could remain working from home

John O’Connell, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told MailOnline : “With taxes at the highest level for 70 years, it would be deeply unfair for taxpayers to see the standard of services decline due to the Whitehall work-from-home revolution.”

This is how some key departments are affected.

Driving licence delays

Strikes and social-distancing rules have left the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is still processing driving licence renewals it received in June.

Industrial action by the Public and Commercial Services Union has added to the backlog, which means there are about 1.4 million licences waiting to be processed.



Drivers are facing delays of up to five months when renewing their driving licence
Drivers are facing delays when renewing their driving licence

Both practical driving tests and theory tests were suspended from January due to restrictions, but resumed in July, there are still some delays.

Passport applications and renewals

People have been advised they may have to wait longer than usual. Guidelines have been issued to enable applicants to plan travel and ensure they leave enough time to renew their passports.

The Home Office said it was “currently issuing online renewals within published timeframes”.

A spokesperson said earlier: “Since the outset of the pandemic, over 4.5 million people have delayed applying for a passport. This means that potential demand for passports is higher than ever before and passport processing times could change quickly. We have therefore been advising applicants since April to plan to wait up to 10 weeks before they receive their passport.”

READ MORE: Four-day working week plan could be trialled in England

Criminal record checks for jobs

Jobseekers have been hit with delays at the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which carries out vetting for employers in jobs such as the police, prison service, care sector and schools require a criminal record check.

The DBS, which carries out the checks for employers, reportedly admitted home working had “tested our ability’ to meet demand during lockdowns, with basic checks taking longer to process.

Some teachers or care workers, where enhanced vetting is essential because they work with children, claim delays have forced them to go on Universal Credit.

Wills and inheritance

Families and loved ones are having to wait three times longer than usual for the probate service to process inheritance after a death.



Person doing some paperwork
Person doing some paper work to catch up with essential documents after lockdown

A Government spokesman said: “We hired extra staff to meet unprecedented demand during the pandemic and online probate applications are now being granted in less than a week.”

Planning applications

Architects have reported delays in processing planning applications because of slowdowns in some council-run planning departments.

Mortgage companies have also complain of delays in processing local land searches – a requirement for most lenders, with estate agents claiming hold-ups are causing home sales to fall through.

Around 57 per cent of councils reported they were not ‘operating normally’, according to a Local Government Association workforce survey.

Tax

There have been delays in rebates being paid with some cash being help up until February. HMRC’s latest figures reveal 35.5 per cent of 4.5 million items of post have been cleared within its target of 15 days.

A spokesman for HMRC denied that the rebate delays have anything to do with staff working from home.

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