It was hailed as a “world-beating” assistance by key minister Boris Johnson at its start, but three months on and agreement tracers hired to do the job on England’s take a look at-and-trace method say they are producing only a handful of calls every month and are occupying their time with barbecues and quizzes.
Agents explained to the Guardian they were being typically contacting people today who had previously been spoken to by a different contact tracer, and making phone calls to numbers that did not exist or that went straight as a result of to voicemail.
Workers at Sitel – 1 of the firms contracted to offer the company – claimed they have been remaining provided quizzes by crew leaders to continue to keep them occupied in the day and that prizes have been even being made available to individuals making the best variety of phone calls to preserve up morale. A single make contact with tracer said that in a single occasion £50 was awarded to the maximum ranking caller in just about every team, who was then put in a attract at the finish of the month to acquire a Television set.
The details appear amid growing frustration amongst local well being officials about the countrywide test-and-trace process, which was released in Could and was witnessed as important to easing England out of lockdown. Operate by the former TalkTalk govt Dido Harding, it entails a lot more than 20,000 contact tracers, paid about £10 an hour, utilized by private firms these types of as Serco.
1 speak to tracer claimed they experienced built just a couple phone calls in two months of operate, two of which had been fake figures. “I’ve read of tracers saying to be sat in the backyard garden having a barbecue so that they can continue to be logged in and clock up the hrs,” he additional. “They are not by itself – there is hundreds, if not countless numbers, of comparable tales.”
An additional agent stated that they had been sent day-to-day icebreakers which involved concerns this sort of as “what’s your favourite flower?”, and that they had to do pub quiz-model issues as a portion of the team “to go the time and maintain people today active”.
He stated: “It’s incredibly juvenile, notably when they treat us with extreme scepticism and negativity when phone calls aren’t coming in.”
Details viewed by the Guardian furnished by an worker at the enterprise Intelling, employed as a result of outsourcing company Serco, seems to show the scale of inactivity among the personnel, with 471 agents making just 135 phone calls in two days – all over .14 calls for every agent per working day. This figure features phone calls to incorrect figures, voicemails, or multiple phone calls created to the exact personal. A single tracer working at the company explained that one particular particular person had been termed by tracers 20 times.
Serco reported they have no file of someone remaining contacted 20 times and that it was superior to have way too much capacity in terms of staff than as well tiny.
An additional tracer for a organization contracted through Serco stated they had been performing for two and a half months and designed just 4 calls, with the previous one around a thirty day period ago and two that went to voicemail. She mentioned she experienced witnessed a spreadsheet exhibiting around 15 calls a working day have been currently being produced by a crew of more than 55 folks. Some of her colleagues experienced nevertheless not made a single contact, she stated.
“We could conveniently make 30 calls a day,” mentioned a tracer at Intelling. “I’ve labored hundreds of hrs and only produced a handful of phone calls, and all of them have gone to voicemail.”
“It’s been very disheartening, and I’m grappling with my individual morals due to the fact I’m throwing away so significantly [public] revenue,” they claimed. “They keep telling us upcoming week it is likely to get far more chaotic, and at 1st you believe that, but in excess of time actuality sets in that I could by no means make a genuine connect with, and I’ll be paid 1000’s of lbs . by the federal government. Which is deeply frustrating if you want to enable.”
The Guardian has observed progress experiences from a further contract tracer operating at Sitel, which showed his group was averaging all-around 10 conditions for each man or woman about nine months. He said that he experienced accomplished a handful of phone calls, of which only a single experienced connected and that particular person experienced by now been contacted.
Deal tracers documented that cell phone calls that had taken spot were being not getting logged correctly on the technique, due to a absence of schooling. They mentioned this intended some people today had been finding named various moments a day by agents.
“Someone spoke to a Serco agent for 35 minutes and it was [incorrectly] logged as a voicemail, so goes back again into the program and my colleague termed to run by the complete point again,” one particular contact handler reported.
“From a personalized standpoint I am a clinical scholar so community health initiatives like track and trace is one thing I treatment about and intended a little something to me,” said one particular tracer. “I comprehend the effects of truly superior general public well being initiatives and this was an opportunity to do a thing impressive and make a substantial variation.”
A Department of Well being and Social Treatment spokesperson stated: “In just eight months NHS check and trace has tested around 2.6 million men and women for coronavirus and contacted additional than 218,000 persons who have tested beneficial for the virus, or lately been in get hold of with another person who has tested positive, in get to break the chain of transmission.
“We have about 27,000 get in touch with tracers in spot to undertake this vital perform and anyone with signs or symptoms really should book a exam.”
When contacted for comment, Sitel merely sent a hyperlink to a webpage about the influence of the pandemic on its functions. Intelling did not respond to a ask for for comment.