Answering the Call - An inspection of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Contact Management Arrangements

Publication: 27/06/12
Good work must be constantly reviewed to ensure quality

THE Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has made significant improvements in dealing with the public and its handling of emergency and non-emergency calls, however the Contact Management Strategy of the PSNI must be continuously reviewed to ensure user satisfaction in the long term.  

This is the conclusion of a Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland report published today (27 June 2012) – ‘‘Answering the Call’ – An inspection of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s contact management arrangements.
 
Deputy Chief Inspector, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan said; “The ways in which a police service makes itself accessible to members of the public and how it manages that first encounter is critical in helping to create confidence in the service user.
 
“The move from an eight-centre contact management model to a four-centre one hadbeen managed and communicated well in a relatively short time span. This has placed service excellence as integral to the development of a Contact Management Strategy but there is still room for improvement in how the service is delivered.”
 
The inspection report, which covered an extended period from February 2011, until January 2012 found that abandoned call rates had dropped significantly under the new contact management arrangements from around 20% to 3.7%.
 
This had represented a significant improvement in service delivery. In addition, thePSNI had performed reasonably well on their targets of answering emergency calls within the 10 second target. Performance figures showed an overall achievement rate across the new contact centres of 88.8%.
 
While the inspection report found that the move to a four-centre model had produced improvements, problems remained, some generated as a result of the swiftness of the roll out, such as variation in staff skills and service delivery.
 
“Delays in implementing an Individual Performance Review (IPR) across the Service have hindered the full impact of the new contact management arrangements.” , said Mr McGuigan.
 
“A customer service ethos has been embedded into the Strategy but has lacked the stronglink to individual Officers’ operational actions that the IPR may have provided.”
 
The report found that there had been no organisational strategy to employ non-police in the role of Dispatcher. Given the benefits to the public of returning more Officers to front line duties, CJI recommends that the PSNI should actively pursue the deployment of non-police members of staff as Dispatchers to reduce its dependence on serving Officers within contact management centres.
 
“The good work done by the PSNI in ensuring the right people had been allocated to contact management centres, doing the right job, needs to be continuously reviewed and quality assurance should be maintained at the forefront of the actions of every member of staff in the contact centres. Only a continuous drive for quality has the potential to impact positively on user satisfaction in the long-term,” said Mr. McGuigan.