The target of appointments being offered for free was decided as part of a contract change - a joint agreement with Sopra Steria Ltd on a metric that measured the number of free appointments in the system which augments the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) regime in place.
This metric is designed to ensure more than half of all appointments at core sites (Cardiff, Croydon, Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester) will be free to the customer. Details on the relevant performance indicators to measure appointment availability has been published and can be found in Schedule 7 of the UKVI Front End Services contract available here:
The performance of Sopra Steria Ltd on KPI 3 for the period of Quarter 2 (July – September 2020) is due to be published by the Cabinet Office as part of wider Government transparency in early 2021:
Following the suspension of UKVCAS due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, SSL began a phased reopening of the service in England on 1 June 2020 and from 22 June 2020 a phased reopening of sites in devolved administrations (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) where local conditions allowed. Both free and chargeable appointments were provided from these dates to customers. Customers who had appointments scheduled as of 27th March 2020 (when the service was suspended) were invited first to book and attend a UKVCAS appointment. As a result of customers having an appointment profile at the point of service suspension, customers’ existing appointment profiles (free or chargeable) at the time of service suspension were honoured across all UKVCAS sites.
Appointment systems returned to pre-COVID-19 profiles at the point of booking for customers on 22 June 2020. Customers who submitted their online application to UKVI in June were invited to book a UKVCAS appointment from 21 July.
As set out in the answer to a previous question, UKVCAS service was suspended in April and May 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdown measures. In June 2020 the total number of appointments fulfilled across UKVCAS sites was 23,985 and of these 7,270 were paid for appointments.