Staff recruited to help improve "not fit for purpose" 101 service

THE effectiveness of the 101 police number has gone from “critical” to "significantly improved" in five months, a review has found.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), requested the review of the non-emergency number after receiving "huge criticisms" of the system from the public.

Councillors and residents have reported waiting times on some 101 calls of up to 40 minutes, the PCC added.

The current IT system behind the 101 line was more than 15 years old and “not fit for purpose for today’s policing demands”, said the PCC.

He added: “When residents in South Yorkshire call 101, they want to be greeted by a call handler as promptly as possible. 

“In order to do this the police need a full establishment of call handlers, fully trained with the skills to deal with calls promptly and effectively. 

“There also needs to be an adequate IT system in place to allow staff to manage their time effectively and the public need to understand that the 101 service is for non-emergency police calls and not a number to be abused.”

Leading the 101 review is Asst Chief Constable Jason Harwin who updated the commissioner at the PCC’s public accountability board meeting last week.

Dr Billings asked for feedback from the force on what could be done to improve performance with the current system and how the force would consult with the public.

Asst Chief Constable Jason Harwin said at the meeting: “In May 2016, the performance of the contact management department was such a concern that a critical incident was declared. 

“I am pleased to say that now in November 2016, we are seeing some significant improvements and the public should now be seeing the results.

“We knew that demand on the service had changed, the working patterns were out of sync with demand and the systems and processes were not effective enough.

“A review and refresh of the workforce strategy was completed. This has resulted in ten additional call handlers and six force crime bureau staff. 

“There are currently the equivalent of 23.9 full-time vacancies with 17 staff in training. Ensuring that the force can deliver the needs of the public is the key priority.

“We will be consulting with the public on how they want to contact South Yorkshire Police and will feed all of this back in to the review. 

“This is a lengthy process unfortunately, but we do need to get it right”.

The senior police officer’s report added it was estimated the 101 call centre would “not be up-to the necessary resource establishment until September 2017” - when staff will be fully trained.

The PCC said he would continue to ask the force for review updates to what he hoped would soon be “an efficient and effective service”.