As UK school closures force working parents to juggle unfathomable phonics charts with their day jobs, it's time to turn our attention to those who accrue massive financial gain from the pandemic: consultants.
In a Parliamentary written answer earlier this week, Helen Whately, Minister of State for Social Care at the Department of Health and Social Care, said that, as of November 2020, the Test and Trace programme designed to combat the deadly disease outbreak had hired more than 2,300 consultants and contractors working for 73 different suppliers at a total cost of approximately £375m. Big hat-tip goes to Sam Bright of Byline Times for first reporting the information.
Reg readers might well note that figure equates to an average of £163k per consultant. Given a few of them may well have been employed for brief periods, earning well less than the average, it might be safe to assume a few are on their way to a cool half-million.
All this may have seemed perfectly reasonable to Conservative MP Whately as she revealed the revelation because she did, after all, prepare for the role of serving the good people of Faversham and Mid Kent with a career as a *checks notes* management consultant, including tenures at PriceWaterhouseCoopers and McKinsey & Company.
The mammoth investment in management consultancy fees under the stewardship of Dido Harding, the Conservative peer who heads up England's contact-tracing system, is already bearing fruit though.
The programme in England was outsourced to Serco for £45m in June last year. The outsourcer is not responsible for the design or overall management of NHS Test and Trace, nor its IT systems. Nonetheless, the outsourcer managed to leak the email addresses of around 300 human contact tracers, the people paid to find out who an infected person was in touch with, back in May.
Other problems include a shortage of tests, leading to the public being asked to drive hundreds of miles to get one.
Known in these pages as the Queen of Carnage for her role as chief exec of ISP TalkTalk during which a hack divulged nearly 157,000 users' financial details at a cost it £42m, Harding was named head of Test and Trace in May 2020.
Her success was such that she was appointed leader of newly formed public health body, the National Institute for Health Protection, a role for which she has few qualifications. Just like a worrying proportion of our schoolchildren – unless the government gets to grips with the UK's spiralling COVID-19 outbreak and gets them back in school. ®