Three million people suffer from driving license delays since April 2020: report

Three million people who have applied for a driver’s license since April 2020 have experienced delays, costing them some of their jobs or income, according to a report by MPs.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) system for processing applications is “slow, inefficient and in need of major improvement,” the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.

People who testified before the committee described losing their jobs or income and being unable to start or return to work due to the delays, while drivers with medical conditions were hardest hit, it was said.

The coronavirus pandemic “inevitably” had an impact, according to the PAC, with three million people experiencing delays since the month after the first hit and around 60 million unanswered phone calls in a two-year period.

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

Labour’s Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the Committee, said: “The pandemic inevitably made operations difficult, but the DVLA and DfT were not up to the challenge of keeping essential driver license services running, and especially for those who needed it most. .

“Some of the DVLA operations are outdated, they lack a comprehensive strategy for modernization and at PAC we are not convinced that they are better prepared for the next crisis.

“When that happens, it will again be the most vulnerable customers, people for whom driving is a lifeline, the most affected. That is not acceptable. The DVLA has to organize itself”.

The PAC said some DVLA clients experienced isolation and worsening mental health when they were 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 licenses went unanswered, 94% of the total it received, it said.

The number of complaints about the DVLA received through MPs “grew tenfold” between 2019-20 and 2021-22, according to the report.

The PAC suggested to the DVLA: set up better systems for those who experience delays, improve their communication with customers and put in place a contingency plan to share with the committee.

Liberal Democrat Transport spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse said: “These shocking delays show that DVLA customers are being defrauded on an industrial scale.

“Delays in obtaining a driver’s license are not just a minor inconvenience, but can lead to people losing their jobs or worsening their mental health.

“The government and DVLA need to keep a check on each other and ensure that people no longer have to experience these unacceptable delays.”

A DVLA spokesperson said: “We have returned to normal processing times on all our services. All standard paper applications returned to normal response times in May 2022.

“Our online services worked well during the pandemic and for the vast majority of our customers, their dealings with the DVLA would have gone smoothly. 98% of people who applied online received their driver’s license in just a few days.

“During the pandemic, we issued more than 24 million driver’s licenses, the vast majority of which were issued within three business days.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The report does not represent a balanced picture of the work that has been done in the department.

“As well as ministers closely monitoring the progress of the DVLA, we provided practical support during the pandemic, including setting up workplace Covid testing in Swansea and providing additional office space in Birmingham.

“We continue to support the DVLA’s investment in the development and promotion of online services, as we did before and during the pandemic.”


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