Crisis at the UK Passport Office

It’s a long time since I had a rant but this has really got my flames throwing!

Those of us in the UK are sure to have seen the latest news regarding the backlog of Passport applications.  Depending on which news report you read there are up to 500,000 applications outstanding, with around half of these since the start of the year.

Some will blame the government – after all it is a government office, some will blame people for submitting late applications.

There is plenty at fault here –

  • People booking holidays and not checking the expiry date of their passports.
  • People booking holidays without having a passport to start with.
  • An increase of applications due to  the UK economy steadily improving. (Apparently – although I don’t see where!)
  • The World Cup.
  • The staff at the Passport Office not pulling their finger out and shifting up a gear to increase their work rate to keep up with SLAs and KPIs.
  • The management at the Passport Office not assessing the situation early enough.
  • The senior management at the Passport Office failing at ‘forward planning’

There are plenty of things that are right though:

  • The need to check and double check EVERY application.
  • The need to ensure the security of the UK is upheld.

When I worked at a Service Desk we regularly reviewed our processes and staffing levels needed.
For example:

  • Return to work after the weekend and forgetting passwords (also applies to Bank Holiday weekends!)
  • Major software rollouts requiring staff to reconfigure some applications – despite being given instructions some numpties will always ignore it and call the Service Desk!

We always had plans for staffing levels – the number of people that were allowed holiday varied for each day of the week and when there were special projects overtime was available.
We ensured that we had multi-function staff so we could count on staff from other areas to help with work spikes.
We didn’t always get it right,  in fact there were times when it all went completely shit faced/tits up. It’s at those times that companies think that bringing in ‘troubleshooters’ or ‘consultants’ will resolve all the issues or they’ll throw extra NEW staff at it. Well let me tell you that’ll only solve some of the problems.
By the time they get to that point the staff and junior management have usually worked their fingers to the bone, given up breaks,  lunches and worked extra hours without pay to try to keep up for the sake of the business. Also covering for less able staff and management. The ones that don’t leave are the ones that deserve medals. I’ve been there, done it, got through the other side, got the scars to show for it.. (actually more than once!! try 3 or 4 times – God I’m resilient!!)
The major thing about issues like this is that management and certainly senior management never seem to learn from previous troublesome times, they hardly ever want to consult with staff lower down the chain. In fact when they do ask for ideas the staff member is often shouted down by bullish (or bullying) senior management.

So what should the Passport Office have done?

  • They should have had a better awareness of the possible numbers of applications.
  • Were  they were aware that applications would increase for the World Cup?
  • Surely they know from previous years the volumes expected week by week / month by month?
  • Review the staffing levels, make sure that other staff can be made available to help out.

What about some of the applicants? (this is just a general observation and doesn’t cover every scenario)

  • They should check and double check their application form.
  • Before booking a holiday make sure you have your passport and if you already have one that it’s still in date.

What would I suggest?

The Passport Office need to go through their processes, maybe they need to think of Lean and/or 5S methodology.
They should review any SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that they have;  if they have them of course. What ever they are using at the moment clearly isn’t working.
Review of staffing levels and staff roles.
I don’t think throwing new staff at the problem will help in the short term, you’d have to train them first and if they are temporary who’s to say they would do a thorough job?
I’ve also seen in the news that they are going to ASK staff not to use their mobile phones while working.  WHAT??? They shouldn’t be using their phones while working! Perhaps the staff need to be reminded that they have a social life because they work not the other way around!

This is just my opinion – (and a simplistic one at that!) I’m not an expert. I’ve never run a company but I have been at the staff and management ends of quite serious upheavals at the Service Desk where I worked for nearly 13 years. I’ve also been part of a ‘working party’ to  review processes and procedures so I can speak here from my experiences.

If the government would like to employ me as someone from outside to look in then I am available – for a fee or a decent wage 🙂

What are your thoughts?

What is a mum?

I am the oldest of 4 children, my father buggered off when my sister was a baby. Things were tough, we shared a big 4 bedroom council house with Nan and my Mum’s 3 brothers.  Nan was VERY much in charge, do as you were told or get a clip around the ear, smack and even things thrown at you!! That’s how it was in those days..

Mum had to work full time so Nan looked after us. We only had sweets or biscuits on Saturday, that was our treat while watching TV. We played lots of board games, card games and when it wasn’t raining we played outside – in the garden, in the park, playing fields, in the street or we went for walks – miles and miles. We dug in the dirt, got dirty, swigged water from a bottle that at least one other person had already swigged from and we all survived having germs on us.  We used to walk along the canal that ran through the estate where we lived.. most of time walking in it, we wore jelly shoes and shorts and never worried about it. (BUT – 40/50 years ago it was clean and not the dumping ground it is now!)

We never went short of anything, we always had the basics, food, clothing and a roof! Meals were made from scratch and we made cakes every Sunday. We were also expected to help with housework, cleaning, washing,  ironing and gardening.

There must have been bad times but you know I really can’t remember any. That’s good isn’t it??  Well except for the very worst moment – getting a phone call on a Sunday evening saying your Mum has passed away. For reasons I won’t go into here.. I didn’t call Mum ‘Mum’ – I called my Nan ‘Mum’ and she had had a stroke some months before so I assumed it was her that they were referring to on the phone. It wasn’t until I got to the house that the unthinkable became known. She had a massive heart attack – she was only 51.
The worst thing was that we had been out all day and as we passed the motorway junction Hubby asked if we should drop in to Mum’s. I said no as I wanted to get home and get the boys bathed and in bed.

What I can remember is:

  • Dancing around a chair when Nan put her Russ Conway or Winifred Atwell records on.
  • Loving it when Uncle Johnny bought home our first ‘Stereogram’. It came with a special record to demonstrate stereo sound.
  • Sitting on the backdoor step shelling peas or peeling spuds.
  • Picking enough green beans to fill a huge saucepan (there were 8 or 9 of us most of the time!) Slicing them up and cooking them just to have a plate load with some worcestershire sauce and bread & butter.
  • Playing Thunderbirds by climbing inside small conifer trees and rocking them back and forth – these were in a plantation along side the playing fields.
  • Walking – around the estate, up Twmbarlwm,  to Rogerstone, Cwmbran.
  • Playing games in the steet, rounders, skipping, tag, hopscotch.
  • Mum on yearly shutdown from work – days out, Barry Island, Porthcawl. We also had a holiday about every 3 years, a week at Butlins or a caravan at Porthcawl.
  • Getting excited when Pomegranates were in season and having a half of one and a pin to pick out the seeds one by one.
  • Going to the library and bringing home lots of books – I love books.
  • Knowing I could ask Mum anything and get an answer – not always the one wanted but an answer all the same!

Lots more of course!

As a Mum there have been times when I’ve had to  remember that children don’t come with a handbook or instruction manual. Sometimes you have to do what feels right.

Coping with a child who won’t poo in the potty – all in good time…

Two children who weren’t keen on veg – solved when we had an allotment and they helped out and watched them growing.

Remembering my mums words when they both got to the point where they pinched or bit me – “bite them back – only a gentle one – they have to know it hurts” both of them only bit or pinched me once!

Worrying about oldest son being understood in school as his speech was so slow (now worrying about his son being the same!)

Worrying about them doing well in school, getting jobs, girlfriends.

Dealing with ‘terrible 2’s’ with youngest son – he still had them when he left home aged 27!

Dealing with teenagers not keeping their rooms clean and tidy – cutting up the internet cable to stop them playing Warcraft to get them to do this.. REALLY… cut into little bits and no internet until they did enough chores to pay for another one.

Things I’m proud of as a Mum?? My two boys – both now married to lovely young ladies. Both treat their ladies like princesses. Both confident young men – youngest especially so – knowing what he wants even if that meant going all the way to Australia to be with her!
So  you young ‘uns reading this be good to your mum, if you are a Mum remind YOUR Mum she did a good a job before it’s too late to do so. Take pride in knowing that you’ll do a good job too even though it may not feel that way at times.

Lastly remember that no matter what age they are you’ll ALWAYS worry about them.

Happy Mothers Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of a rant

I’m going to have a bit of a rant today. I’ve been getting quite incensed about items in the news regarding hospital care, the NHS in crisis and the general malaise that is pervading the young population of this country.

If you are easily offended by one person’s opinion then please do not read on..but if you’re up for reading on and perhaps adding your own thoughts then please do continue! Continue reading

Childhood Family Holiday Memories

I grew up in an extended family home.  There was Nan, Mum, my Mums 3 brothers, then there was my sister, my 2 brothers and me.

My Dad left when my sister was a baby. This meant Mum had to work to be able to provide the basics for us. I didn’t realise then how hard it must have been to provide for 4 children.  We only ever had sweets on a Saturday for a treat, Sundays were baking days and everyone was expected to their share of chores.

Holidays were rare, I can only remember three where we actually stayed away from home. Porthcawl in a caravan, Butlins Clacton and Minehead Butlins.  I only have 2 pictures from those days, one of us 4 kids with Mum and Nan at Clacton  and one of just me and Mum at Minehead.

butlins holidays

Me and my Mum

I have some good memories from the holiday at Minehead.

  • Journeys on the Monorail. This was quite new and seemed very modern and futuristic for the late 60’s!
  • Watching some men trying to drink a full ‘yard of ale’!
  • The funfair rides. The traditional Horses and there was one that went round and round then went up and around. My Nan loved it and eventually persuaded me to go on it.
  • Splashing in the fountain. The fountain was made up of tiers and we used to climb up and sit on them.
  • The boating lake.
  • The Red Coats – they were always trying to persuade you to join in with games. They made sure everyone of all ages were having a good time.

Competition sponsored by Butlins Holiday Parks, helping your family make memories

#Project365 week 29 day 2 – Bottle

I went for an early morning stroll today, I took my iPod with me and listened to some upbeat music to lighten my mood.

I’ve been feeling rather down the last few days.

  • Dealing with selling some of my youngest sons belongings, brings home how much I miss him.
  • Thinking of making the plans for the trip to see him – should we just have a flight to Oz or go for a round the world ticket and do at least one stop on the way there and back to break up the flight times. Where will we stay? Should we fly into Sydney and then fly to Brisbane or should we drive there? All these options are just mincing my brain.
  • Heated words with the older son regarding his and his wife’s lack of monetary sense.
  • Realising I’ve been out of work for 3 years on 21st July. I spent around 4 hours on Sunday trawling job and company sites and refreshing my CV.   I found just 3 jobs that I would want to apply for and when I checked the job details one wanted qualifications I don’t have (the type you can only get when on the job), one turned out to be 50 miles away and the last one wanted a University Graduate, why goodness only knows as it was basically a Team Manager job. I applied for it anyway..you never know..

I spent much of Sunday feeling rather sorry for myself.  I’ve been depressed before and I can feel it coming back but I’m not having it – oh no siree.
I don’t want to resort to medication again, I hated it, sleeping is bad enough without the medically induced nightmares! So the walk and fresh air is my medication.

Anyway on to Bottle –

I forgot to take my camera on my walk so I had to resort to the iPod camera and remembered I had the PowerCam App installed. It takes photos with special effects. So when I came home I pulled out my favourite bottle for the hot weather – Pimms.

Oh, in case you’re wondering… I don’t resort to this when when feeling low. It’s taken a year to get it half empty!!

Drunk Pimms

Drunk Pimms

The swirly effect makes it look drunk!!

What do you do to ‘lighten your mood’?

Room 101 Part 2

A few months ago I posted Room 101 Part 1.

Yesterday I noticed this Meme on Twitter and agreed to take part.

The idea for the Room 101 meme is simple:

  • Pick three things/people/whatever that you would shove in a room never to see the light of day again (Room 101)
  • Explain why should they go in there
  • Tag three bloggers to carry the meme forward (if you want to).

So here goes – are you ready??

1. Grey Hair

I hate having grey hair. It started when I was about 16, the odd one or two (or 10). It didn’t bother me too much, my Nan was ‘Salt and Pepper’ and my Mum was also going grey. Then in 1988 my mum died and the grey hair went crazy – now I don’t know if that’s to do with shock or whether I just noticed it more. It was soon after that I decided to start having highlights to mask the grey.
Within a few years I had more grey than highlights to decided to go full head dyeing.  It was dark to start with but I read that ‘mature’ ladies should actually go lighter as your skin tone changes with age. So I decided to go blonde, not successfully at first it was just too light and brassy. I’ve now found a colour I like but I still hate applying the colour every 6 weeks or so. It needs doing now so I’ll have to get the bottle out soon or it’ll look like the new trendy ‘Hombre’ look!!
So lets get grey hair in Room 101 and I can go back to having my lovely light brown shiny hair!

Dark hair 30 years ago - grey roots today!

Dark hair 30 years ago – grey roots today!

2. Tipping

Why do we need to leave a tip?   I’ve heard stories of people being chased down the street after not leaving a tip. WTF??
We’ve been on holiday at an All Inclusive hotel in Mexico and tips were included but still saw many people leaving dollar bills after ordering a drink. I know it’s the ‘done thing’ in the US but surely it would be better for the employees to have a good wage for doing what they are actually employed to do?
When we were in London last year we went to restaurant for lunch, when the bill came it showed the total for the food and drink and they added 20% – yes 20% for service. There was nothing on the menu stating a charge for service and I wasn’t having it.. Hubby was mortified.. I approached the head waiter – who was really lovely and said that the service charge was actually optional. They put it on the bill to be put into a ‘kitty’ that is then shared amongst all staff – back and front of house members. He then pointed me to a box that customers could drop what they felt was fair into. That’s what I opted for.
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not mean, I just feel that if I’m paying for food and drink and the servers and other staff are being paid a fair wage then tipping should not be required.

3. Ricky Gervais and Miranda Hart

Yes both of them. They are just not funny and I honestly cannot understand why either of them get air time on the TV.  Gervais thinks he so funny and actually laughs at his own unfunny jokes. Hart has got famous by being a bumbling idiot – comedy like that died in the sixties.
I just want them both put in a boat and cast off to sea. If they land on a deserted island they will have to make each other laugh, perhaps they’ll like their own humour. Me I can’t stand either of them..

I really could go on, but I won’t, but will say that Jeremy Kyle, The only way is Essex, Big Brother and No shit Sherlock research were also on my list.. perhaps Part 3 will be coming too!!

Click on the badge below to go to the linky – take a look at what’s in other peoples Room 101 – or take part yourself!

Stickers, Stars and Smiles

I’d like to pass the meme to

Elaine at Fun as a Gran

Cathy at The wicked world of Lucas

and Claire at Ninja killer Cat