I had what seemed a simple job – contact 12 councils that had the greatest number of Community Triggers per data we had collected a couple of years ago. I did not realise the Switchboard Stress I was about to undergo.
Finding an email was relatively easy – however, only one responded to that email. So the painful process of following up those emails with phone calls began. I think it is important to keep in mind that some of these numbers were precisely the numbers advertised for if you wanted to activate the Community Trigger.
I actually think it is a bit of a miracle that so many people in these local authority areas have managed to activate Community Triggers – I suspect they all used online forms and not the telephone. The stress of navigating switchboards gave me a headache and filled me with frustration. I can’t imagine how they would expect a victim of persistent anti-social behaviour to bear doing something like that.
I start to wonder if the number of Triggers is relatively low because so many people give up. I certainly abandoned a few attempts after 20 minutes kept on hold. One switchboard pointblank told me they couldn’t put me through to anyone. I just had to email again. Another said someone would get back to me. They never did, and when I called again a few days later, and was offered the same service, I pushed to get them to give me a direct line instead.
I needed to be assertive to do that. I don’t think vulnerable victims would find the strength to do that. Does anyone else have alarm bells ringing about this?
There were exceptions – Bolton is a notable example where I was quickly put through to the right department, told the name of the person I needed to speak to and given a direct number to call as well as told my number would be left with him. He returned my call the next day. Surely that is the normal way you undertake business? Seemingly not.
To put a switchboard number as the Community Trigger number is to absolutely set people up to fail. It makes me so cross. It runs counter to the statutory guidelines encouraging accessibility. I thought it was bad calling 101 for the Trigger, but at least someone answers that number (thankfully as you wouldn’t want to be paying to be on hold for 20 minutes!!).