DVA ‘struggling’ with sickness absences, MLAs told

The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) is “struggling” with sickness absences among examiners, with long Covid among the causes, MLAs have heard.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 2:00 pm

The agency’s director of operations, Pat Delaney, told members of the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee that the current sickness rate among vehicle examiners was 15%.

Mr Delaney and DVA chief executive Jeremy Logan were giving evidence to the committee on efforts to address testing backlogs caused by pandemic closures and restrictions.

Driving tests resumed in Northern Ireland in April while social distancing restrictions on MOT vehicle tests were eased in July.

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Most common ailments like colds and flu can be treated with self care and over the counter medicines.

More examiners have been hired and trained to help address the delays built up in the system.

Mr Delaney told MLAs that sickness absence was currently a significant issue.

“We are struggling with sickness absence in the agency,” he said.

“We have a number of our staff who have very, very serious illnesses and we have a number of staff who are out with long Covid.

“And we have a number of staff who currently either have Covid or have been pinged as a close contact.

“The last figure I had for our vehicle examiners was around 15% of our staff were impacted by sickness.”

Mr Delaney said some of those who were seriously ill were unlikely to return to work.

Since driving tests resumed, the number being conducted is up almost 50% on pre-pandemic levels.

More than 30,000 tests have been carried out since April 23 and the end of September.

Mr Delaney said it could take another year to bring wait times down to pre-pandemic levels.

“If we’re consistent, and we managed to get around the 70,000 tests – between 70,000 and 75,000 tests – done in a full financial year, then we’re probably looking at towards the back end of next year to get everything cleared up, if you’re been thinking about a backlog,” he said.

Mr Delaney told members there was evidence that any backlog in obtaining large vehicle goods (LGV) licences may have been cleared.

He said 15 tests available in the last three weeks had not been taken up.

“The suggestion from that is we’re possibly at the cusp of addressing what would be the backlog in terms of LGV testing but we need to monitor that over the weeks to come,” he said.

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