Lost jobs and income among serious repercussions after major DVLA delays
Around three million customers who applied for a driving licence in the UK have experienced major delays since April 2020, according to an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee.
The report revealed that customers with medical conditions were especially badly affected, with some experiencing isolation and worsening mental health when unable to go about their usual daily lives without a valid driving licence.
Customers’ complaints about the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have greatly increased.
The PAC received submissions from people who described losing their jobs or income and being unable to start or return to work because of the delays.
Others had difficulty arranging motor insurance or were unable to hire a vehicle or drive abroad. Of the nearly 40 submissions received, three-quarters were from customers with medical conditions requiring the DVLA to decide on their fitness to drive.
Despite the DVLA changing the law to postpone driving licence renewals, investing in new buildings and additional staff, and making more services available online, the state of affairs persisted for around two years.
Customers’ poor experiences were exacerbated by the huge difficulty contacting the DVLA during the pandemic.
The DVLA’s system to process applications from customers with medical conditions is slow, inefficient, and in need of major improvement.
These customers and those applying by post have been badly affected by the delays, but almost all of the 17 million customers without notifiable medical conditions had their applications processed within three working days.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair 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 Department for Transport (DfT) has been criticised for taking a hands-off approach and failing to ensure the DVLA is using modern working practices and up-to-date technology.
The report calls for the DVLA to implement a comprehensive strategy for modernisation, with a focus on improving its system for processing applications from customers with medical conditions.
The report also recommends that the DVLA improves its communication with customers, with clearer and more up-to-date information about the status of their applications.
The committee calls on the DfT to ensure that the DVLA is better prepared for future crises and that it has the resources and expertise it needs to provide essential services to customers.
While the report acknowledged that the pandemic had caused significant disruption to the DVLA’s operations, it noted that the agency had also faced a number of other challenges during this period, including industrial action by the PCS Union and reduced staff numbers due to lockdown restrictions.
The NHS also deprioritised DVLA referrals, which further impacted the agency’s ability to process applications.
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 24million driving licences, the vast majority of which were issued within 3 working days.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com