HC Deb 05 March 1981 vol 1000 cc189-90W
Mr. Waldegrave

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is yet in a position to say when the introduction of the Datalink computer equipment will be completed in his Department's social security offices.

Mrs. Chalker

I am glad to be able to announce that the programme for the introduction of Datalink was completed at the end of February. Datalink is a new computerised communications system between the social security local offices and the records division at the Newcastle central office. It enables local offices to obtain information about a claimant's contribution record not only more quickly, so speeding up initial payments of short-term benefits, but also more cheaply. It also makes the job of local office staff easier to handle.

The equipment consists of British Olivetti TC 485 terminals in the 470 local offices concerned, linked by modems and telephones lines to Olivetti SP 600 computer controllers at the Newcastle central office. It is by far the largest system to make use of such a link and the first to transmit data in both directions.

The introduction was planned, after a start in 14 pilot offices in five regions in October 1980, to be extended to cover the whole of Great Britain by the end of June 1981. Despite the inevitable teething problems to overcome in equipment, programs and operator experience, it was decided to aim for faster implementation, by the end of February 1981. I should like to thank all the staff concerned, who have successfully achieved this target, and produced a quicker and more efficient service to the public.