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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 16 October 2012, Official Report, column 276W, on post offices, what assessment she has made of (a) the extent and (b) the adequacy of the provision of passport applications by post offices; and if she will make a statement.
Post Office Ltd (POL) operates the Check & Send service on behalf of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS). The service is currently available at 2,750 Post Office branches and sub branches. IPS receives around 5.5 million passport applications each year and, in 2012-13, POL handled 55% of all passport applications received by IPS.
The Check & Send service assists customers by providing information on the completion of the application form, ensuring that the form is properly completed and making sure that the customer supplies the correct supporting documentation. POL then sends the completed application form and associated documents to IPS for consideration. Applications received by IPS have significantly fewer errors than applications received directly from the public and applications can be processed with little or no additional contact with the customer.
IPS does regularly review with POL the number and location of branches that are able to offer the Check & Send service and as a consequence of this, 135 new branches joined the network in November 2012. In addition, a further 50 branches are planned to be added to the network in the next three months.