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England contact tracer: ‘I haven’t made one call in 12 weeks’

A worker in the north-west tells how she has not been given any cases since she started in May

Woman looking at her phone. Picture posed by model.

Woman looking at her phone. Picture posed by model. Photograph: Mito Images/Rex/Shutterstock

“I was hired by a Serco sub-contractor to be a contact tracer in the north-west of England at the end of May, just as this supposedly world-beating national contact-tracing system began.

“In 12 weeks I have not made a single call despite working 42 hours a week for £10.12 an hour. One of my friends started at the same time and they haven’t been assigned any cases either. We are not alone: we have a WhatsApp group comparing notes with other call handlers and quite a few haven’t had even one job the entire time.

“My understanding was that we were going to be allocated local cases. Given that the north-west has seen some of the biggest spikes in infections you would think we would be especially busy but apparently not.

“At first it was quite exciting. I had been furloughed and was then made redundant and I was pleased to get a job where I felt I was doing my bit to prevent further outbreaks. I feel this is such a failure of the government, such a gap between what they say and what is the reality.

“Despite not being allocated any cases in three months I was offered an extension on my contract this morning. I had an email saying: “Call volumes have not been as high as we originally anticipated” but telling me I should “feel proud that you have done your bit”. But I haven’t done anything.”

A Serco spokesperson said: “Serco and its team of specialist subcontractors has played an important part in helping reaching hundreds of thousands of people who might otherwise have passed on the virus. We are 93% successful in persuading people to isolate where we have been able to have conversations.”

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