A FAMILY who have saved for two years towards a £9,000 dream holiday to DisneyWorld face being left grounded.
Mark Steele and son Merlin have both been hit by the current passport crisis, leaving their trans-Atlantic trip of a lifetime in doubt.
The pair, of Roker, Sunderland, had been looking forward to the break with Mark’s partner Tracey Bellman, 36, and her three daughters.
Seven weeks ago, Mark and Merlin applied to renew their passports but while Mark got his back 24 hours ago, Merlin has yet to receive his – despite being due to fly from Manchester to Florida in just 10 days time.
Mark, 47, said: “We’re now in panic mode.
“We’ve heard nothing and now I’m worried I face telling my 15-year-old son he can’t go on the family’s dream holiday.
“This is something we’ve been saving for over the past few years and we wanted to go this summer because the kids have finished their exams. Taking into account spending money, flights and everything, we are talking about £9,000 – and there are no refunds.”
The Government has announced it will drop Fast Track passport fees as a result of the crisis, which has led to 30,000 passports being delayed.
Unions representing Passport Office staff claim the backlog is closer to 500,000.
The standard processing time is three weeks for new children’s passports and renewals and six weeks for first-time adult applications.
When Mark, a teacher, phoned to see what was happening about the passport, he was told Merlin’s details had been filled in incorrectly but later told the application had been damaged in the post.
He added: “They had both applications but there is no sign of getting Merlin’s back. This should be a time we are all excited about going away and looking forward to it. Instead, we’re panicking and wondering if we’re ever going to get there.
“My partner and her three daughters all have their passports. This was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime for all of us but now we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
David Hanson, the Shadow Immigration Minister, yesterday called on the Government to look into the issue of compensation for holidaymakers at parliamentary questions tomorrow.
An extra 200 staff have been drafted in to help process passports and almost 1,000 employees – almost three times the usual number – are staffing a Passport Office telephone helpline, which is operating extended hours, seven days a week.
From the end of June, new office space will be open in Liverpool, where an extra 100 staff will work their way through piles of passports.
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