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Big changes to South Yorkshire Police’s 101 service ahead

Written by on 09/10/2020

Frustrated residents in South Yorkshire – who have faced massive delays when trying to telephone police – could get some relief with the force about to open it’s switchboard seven days a week, with staff on duty until 10pm.

That means callers who ring the 101 number will speak to a switchboard operator first and those who can be simply re-directed to an officer or department will not have to join the queue to speak to call-handlers, who are frequently busy dealing with jobs which require more complex attention.

In a second move, a ‘digital desk’ is also being created to allow the force to communicate with the public through the internet, reflecting the methods used by private sector companies, and they will be on duty around the clock, except for the hours between 3am and 7am, when demand is low.

Between the two projects, there will be an additional 31 staff members working at the Atlas Court call centre in Sheffield – a significant investment to answer a long-standing frustration among callers who have found themselves in extended queues to get through to police.

The force has already invested £12m in new computer systems to replace obsolete equipment which was inefficient and though that has been regarded as a success, it did not provide a complete answer to the problem.

For years the issue of difficulties in getting through to police on the 101 system have been a constant complaint at public meetings, with some residents blaming the situation for the failure to report crimes and other problems in some cases.

Priority has always been given to 999 calls, meaning that at busy periods staff have fewer opportunities to deal with 101 queries.

Police have faced increasing pressures on the 101 system as call volumes have increased over the years, a situation partly attributed to the fact almost everyone now carries a mobile handset.

That has been exacerbated by the austerity period which has seen other public services reduce their points of access for people needing help, with the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, stating previously that the 101 service is used by many people wanting help for non-policing matters, simply because they have nowhere else to turn.

Dr Billings is to receive a report on progress at Atlas Court at a meeting of his Public Accountability Board, where the force’s performance is held to account.

That states switchboard opening has already been extended to cover the hours of 8am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday, but will cover seven days a week until 10pm in future and states: “Additional opening hours mean that calls from members of the public can be more widely and hence more effectively triaged, resulting in appropriate calls being passed through to our Call Resolution Unit function.

“This will mean that Atlas Court can more effectively redirect members of the public into areas of the business which have the experience and information they require, leaving CRU staff to focus on more traditional 101 enquiries.”