The Passport Service is currently in its peak season for passport demand with the vast majority of applications being received between February and August each year.
At present, renewal applications received through the Online Passport Renewal Service are being processed within the target turnaround time of 10 working days plus postage time. A large proportion of applications submitted through this online channel are currently being processed in timeframes shorter than the target turnaround time.
The current processing times for postal applications submitted through Passport Express depend on the category of application. Renewal applications are currently being processed within the target turnaround time of 15 working days plus postage time. First-time applications and applications from citizens who are applying to replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport are being processed within 24 working days plus postage time, 4 days outside of the target turnaround time of 20 working days.
The management of the overall demand for passports is continuously under review to ensure that adequate resources are in place to meet demand. A number of measures have been taken by the Passport Service to manage increases in demand including the recruitment of additional staff, the continuous implementation of technological and service improvements and the re-organisation of production processes and administrative arrangements.
At the end of 2018, the Passport Service employed 363.2 Full Time Equivalent staff. This is an increase of over 40 staff since the same point in 2017. Already this year, over 90 additional Full Time Equivalent staff have taken up roles in the Passport Service. Targeted overtime has been sanctioned for both permanent and temporary staff when required. The Passport Service has received approval to recruit over 230 Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs) in 2019 to assist in processing passport applications and to deal with the queries from the general public. A dedicated Customer Service Hub has been established to deal with queries from the public and additional staff have been allocated.
The Passport Reform Programme continues to deliver major upgrades to the Passport Service technology platforms and business processes as well as significant customer service improvements. The award winning Online Passport Renewal Service has been the most significant project launched under the Programme to date. The second phase of the Online Passport Renewal Service was rolled out in November 2018. The online facility now allows for the renewal of children's passports and has expanded the cohort of adults eligible to renew online. The online service brings significant benefits to citizens with faster turnaround times and greater customer satisfaction. The online service has been instrumental in the management of overall passport operations and in allowing the Passport Service to allocate staff resources more efficiently to cope with unprecedented demand. Other projects that will advance in 2019 include the development of business process automation, document management systems and the roll out of mailing machines.