Thursday, 24 January 2019

Ceisteanna (81)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

81. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the budgetary increases in both capital and non-capital allocation for processing passport applications in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3542/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Decisions on the final total allocation to the Passport Service in 2019 are currently being finalised in the Department. As already announced in Budget 2019 , last October, further funding is being earmarked for the Passport Service, which has seen a significant increase in demand for Irish passports from Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and Great Britain since the UK voted to leave the EU.

2019  Estimates allocations will help the Department to address critical challenges that are facing Ireland at EU and international level in the context of Brexit. Including a greater focus on delivering further improvements in our services to citizens in such areas as passports.

The agreed additional allocation for Brexit-readiness work includes increased funding for additional staffing to facilitate the processing of increased passport applications (€2m) and applications for Irish citizenship via the Foreign Birth Registration system (€0.6m). There will also be additional funding in 2019 for the operational costs of passport processing.

A key part of the Passport Service’s strategy in managing increasing application volumes is a focus on implementation of service improvements. Since 2016, a significant programme of reform to enhance passport services for citizens has been underway, including the introduction and expansion of online passports services and a new passport card. The award winning online passport application service will continue to make a major contribution to the effective management of exceptionally high volumes by allowing existing resources to be more effectively deployed within the Passport Service. The Online Renewal Service allows Irish citizens (both adult and children) to renew their passport twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere in the world, has led to an exceptionally enhanced customer service experience. To allow further reform and development of the Passport Service €6m in capital funding will be made available to the Passport Reform Programme in 2019.

Staffing needs in the Passport Service are assessed on the basis of a number of factors including forecasted demand, the balance between more complex first-time applications and renewals as well as the uptake of online services and associated productivity gains. As noted above, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sought and has been provided with additional funding in the 2019 Estimates for additional full-time staff in the Passport Service in order to better cope with periods of peak demand and the rising volumes of applications. Additional full-time staff have already been recruited and the Passport Service will continue to monitor operational requirements during the year.