Testing lab recruits 27 staff to cope with surge in demand

Rachel Davenport

A surge in drug and alcohol testing for child protection cases during lockdown has led Warrington-based AlphaBiolabs to recruit 16 staff and invest £400,000 in new equipment to cater for its increased workload.

The testing company has added five scientists, four account managers and seven sample collectors to its team to accommodate its growth.

To meet the increase in demand, AlphaBiolabs has invested in new biological safety cabinets, toxicology analysis instrumentation and personal protection equipment (PPE) for laboratory staff and sample collectors.

The company has also made improvements to the air conditioning system at its headquarters and has installed a fully-integrated thermal imaging camera so lab staff can have their temperatures taken.

Director Rachel Davenport said the company is continuing to expand its workforce, with nine more sample collectors and two additional scientists currently being recruited.

Since lockdown began AlphaBiolabs has seen a rise of 87% in demand for its services for child protection cases involving local authorities, social workers and family law courts.

The company carries out testing on hair, oral fluid, urine and nail clipping samples for signs of drug and alcohol use. It is also one of just a few companies operating in the family law sector that supplies the SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring ankle bracelet, dubbed the ‘sobriety tag’.

It is used by councils, the courts and child protection agencies to obtain information about the frequency and pattern of clients’ drinking habits.

Continuous monitoring can provide them with the tools to change behaviours in vulnerable and higher-risk alcohol-dependent clients.

Recent figures show the number of people contacting the National Association for Children of Alcoholics during lockdown via its helplines and emails has doubled.

An increasing number have come from children whose parents have started to drink again, leading to youngsters facing abuse and aggression and left feeling frightened and trapped.

Rachel said: “Our laboratory has remained open throughout lockdown as a result of extensive forward planning, and our agility means we have been able to support the family law sector by rapidly adapting to the changing circumstances.

“We put a lot of time into planning how we would continue to deliver our services while ensuring all safety protocols were followed.

“Urgent family law cases have continued during this period and, as key workers, the professionals involved have done an amazing job in dealing with them and protecting vulnerable children.”

The latest phase of recruitment has seen staff numbers at AlphaBiolabs rise to more than 80.

Most staff have been working from home during lockdown. The company’s labs have also continued to carry out DNA paternity testing alongside the work for family law cases.