Curb exploitation of foreign care sector staff, minister is urged
Union and care sector providers call on government to prevent unethical international recruitment and invest in the workforce, rather than focus on limited care worker immigration
The government is being urged to scrap plans to cap numbers of healthcare staff from overseas and instead clamp down on exploitation of these workers.
Unions and social care providers warn plans being drawn up by immigration minister Robert Jenrick, which are understood to include a limit on overseas care staff numbers, restrictions on their dependants and potential minimum salary changes, could be disastrous for adult social care in the UK.
Mr Jenrick told the Commons on 28 November the goverment is planning a ‘serious package of fundamental reforms’ to reduce net migration, adding it was essential it took what he described as a rounded approach to social care staff.
Foreign nurses’ harrowing experiences of UK care sector
Many care staff who have come from overseas to work in the UK – including nurses – are facing abuse and exploitation as employers recruit them to fill staffing gaps. A Unison report cites harrowing examples, including foreign staff having to pay thousands of pounds in recruitment fees and working 19-hour shifts without a break.
One care nurse reported having to pay an agent in India £12,000 to introduce her to a UK employer so she could secure a certificate of sponsorship. Once in the UK, she paid £700 a month in rent for a shared house with mouldy walls and without heating. When she complained, her employer used false allegations to dismiss her, the report states.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Overseas care workers have been encouraged to come here to support those most in need, only for some employers to treat them as expendable labour. Ministers must stop being complicit in allowing this abuse to happen.’
Mr Jenrick is understood to be pushing for limits on overseas health and care staff in response to high net migration figures.
Care providers call on government to fund sector ‘properly’
The Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents providers in the sector has written to home secretary James Cleverly warning plans to curb flow of staff into the UK would exacerbate the social care crisis, increase delays in hospital discharges and lengthen hospital waiting lists.
In a letter to the minister, chair Mike Padgham said: ‘If the government wants to reduce social care’s reliance on overseas workers, it has to bring forward long overdue reform of the sector and give it the funding it needs to properly reward its workforce.’
Unison wants to see an overhaul of current immigration rules, which it says make it hard for care staff to leave a job unless they can find a new sponsor. Under current rules, skilled foreign staff have 60 days to find a new employer and sponsor.
Measures to prevent unethical recruitment of staff from overseas by UK care sector
Unison wants measures including visa extensions, and staff recruitment to be carried out only through agencies on the ethical recruiters list run by the NHS. It also suggests ministers provide local authorities with guidance on how to tackle unscrupulous care sector employers.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We do not tolerate abuse in the labour market and where we identify exploitative practices by sponsors, we take action. This can include the revocation of their licence.’
The Home Office said it works to relocate staff from overseas in the event their sponsors lose their licence.
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