Taxi and minicab drivers attempting to renew their licenses are facing months unable to work as a result of vast delays in the Metropolitan Police’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Labour’s Val Shawcross has revealed. Without a licence from the DBS taxi and private hire drivers, as well as anyone working with children or volunteering for certain organisations, are prevented from working. Ms Shawcross said the Met needed to get its act together as the delays were costing taxi drivers, and many others who rely on the checks, their livelihoods.
Home Office targets state that 85% of DBS applications should be completed within two weeks with no case taking more than 60 days. Official figures uncovered by Ms Shawcross however found that in July, the latest period available, the Metropolitan police had only completed 51% of their applications within the 60 day time limit.
Ms Shawcross made the enquiries after some London taxi drivers reported having to wait over five months to renew their licence. During this time taxi drivers, and any other professional or volunteer waiting for a DBS check, are effectively prevented from earning as they do not have the necessary approvals to work.
The delays are down to a major backlog of applications and 20 vacancies in the Met’s DBS team. In September the Met confirmed to the GMB Union that “staffing issues which have combined with a 10% increase in work” had created a “perfect storm” but warned that “it is not possible to simply recruit large numbers” to resolve the backlog.
In 2014-15 the Met received around 270,000 DBS applications and were given £6.4m in funding to undertake the checks.
Labour’s London Assembly Transport Spokesperson Val Shawcross AM said:
“Taxi drivers and many other professionals rely on their ability to get a license in order to work, these delays are literally costing them their livelihoods.
“It’s outrageous that hard working cabbies who applied for a renewed licence in good time are being prevented from working because the Met can’t get its recruitment sorted.
“It’s not just taxi drivers who are suffering, this backlog is affecting everyone from charity and health workers to those wishing to adopt a child. The Mayor needs to pull his finger out and get a grip on this situation. We’re not just talking about an administrative process we’re talking about people’s ability to earn a living.”
Rukib Uddin, 34, a minicab driver from Westminster, said:
“It’s now been five months since I applied for my DBS renewal. I followed the rules and applied two months before my license was due to expire but it’s five months later and it still isn’t resolved. As a result I’ve been prevented from working for three months and there’s still no end in sight.
“The police have my file for 150 days, not because there is anything wrong, but because of the massive backlog of cases. They can’t even tell me when it’ll be resolved.
“It’s disgraceful that this simple procedure is costing people their livelihoods. As a result of not being able to work I have a mountain of debts piling up and my finances are now deep in the red. I have a family and a lot of financial commitments which are spiralling out of control. The police and TfL just don’t seem to get that these delays are costing me my livelihood and pushing me into debt.
“The biggest annoyance is that despite endless complaints everyone just says nothing can be done. Hardworking Londoners are being left to suffer as a result of failing government services.”