UK FCO Improving Services For Overseas Britons

By Editorial 12 June, 2014

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has outlined planned improvements to consular services for Britons abroad, including new policies for dealing with vulnerable customers, and the increased use of digital channels and technology.

In a written statement to Parliament, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mark Simmonds, said that the measures are in line with the FCO's 2013-16 Consular Strategy, which was launched last year by the Foreign Secretary.

Simmonds explained that front-line consular staff now have new skills and tools for dealing with cases involving children and young people, as well customers who have been affected by mental health problems, rape or sexual abuse, or forced marriage. Further, the FCO has developed relationships with specialist non-government organizations (NGOs), which can provide services in areas where the FCO cannot, such as the mental health charity MIND and the missing persons charity Missing Abroad.

The Minister also highlighted that the UK's three global contact centers currently field over 30,000 calls a month from British nationals worldwide. He said that the FCO's new Crisis IT system has been successfully deployed in recent crisis responses, and that the FCO increasingly uses social media channels to respond to travel advice and assistance inquiries.

Simmons further explained that the FCO has simplified notarial and documentary services, reduced bureaucracy, and stopped providing some services where there are comparable alternatives in the private sector. He drew attention a recent 35 percent reduction in the cost of replacing or renewing passports for British nationals overseas, which is due to a reorganization of the system.

Simmons also said that the FCO has updated its public targets to reflect these improvements, and confirmed that the FCO will continue to review and update its policies for providing assistance.

In particular, he revealed that the FCO is aiming to deliver more services digitally, including enabling customers to pay for some services online. Also, the FCO will complete its preparations for helping British nationals stay safe at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, he said.

Tags: United Kingdom | Expats | Welfare |


News Archive