Work to introduce a new computer system for South Yorkshire’s police ‘call centre’ is facing indefinite delays as engineers work to ensure it operates properly when it finally goes live.
The Smart Contact system will replace outdated systems currently used by staff who take calls from the public and is planned to speed up the process, meaning calls to the 101 line should be answered more quickly in future.
But an initial deadline for the system to be working by early Spring has been missed and members of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel have now been told that no start date can yet be given – with no guidance available even down to the month when it should be ready.
That will cause logistical problems for the force because, in addition to the frustration for callers in facing long delays, staff have already been trained in how to use the new equipment and will need that refreshed before starting to use it.
South Yorkshire Police are working on the project with colleagues at Humberside, where the system will be introduced later.
That means there is no opportunity in South Yorkshire to learn lessons from seeing it introduced elsewhere and panel members – councillors and independents who act as a ‘watchdog’ on the work of the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner – have been told the intention is to make sure the equipment functions properly as the priority over getting it working quickly.
Rotherham Coun Stuart Sansome told the meeting the current 101 arrangements needed improving: “We get told every day that it is rubbish and not working.”