• Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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UK care home accused of exploiting its Indian staff

A report found carers were being charged thousands of pounds by an Indian recruitment agency

Nurses and care workers from overseas eligible for a skilled worker visa can switch jobs in theory but within a limited timeframe, which can give employers a certain exploitative hold over them – Representative Image: iStock

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

An undercover investigation at a care home conducted by a UK-based reporter from Kerala has revealed concerning levels of staff exploitation at Prestwick Care, in north-east England.

The investigation highlighted the exploitation of numerous employees, a significant portion recruited from overseas nations like India.

Balakrishnan Balagopal’s report for the ‘BBC Panorama’ investigation, to be telecast on Monday (18) evening, found carers being charged thousands of pounds by an Indian recruitment agency and nurses locked into lengthy contracts with a care home with financial penalties if they tried to leave jobs.

According to official statistics for the past year, 140,000 visas were issued to overseas workers to come to the UK to meet staff shortages in the health and care industry and 39,000 of these went to people from India.

“As I delved deeper into the lives of overseas caregivers, I heard a narrative of exploitation, debt, separation from family, and the constant fear of making mistakes,” Balagopal said in a statement.

“The pursuit of a permanent visa became a tightrope walk, impacting the quality of care provided. The very individuals tasked with ensuring the happiness and well-being of residents found themselves entangled in a web of instability,” he said.

Nurses and care workers from overseas eligible for a skilled worker visa need to be sponsored by an employer.

In theory, they can switch jobs but within a limited timeframe, which can give employers a certain exploitative hold over them.

The ‘Care Workers Under Pressure’ investigation for the BBC comes soon after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the independent body advising the UK government on immigration, warned of exploitation in the country’s social care sector in its annual report released last week.

“Underfunding and consequential low pay contributes to the exploitation of workers in the social care sector. Migrants in the sector on the H&CW (Health & Care Worker) visa are even more susceptible to exploitation as their right to reside in the UK is directly linked to their employer, creating a power imbalance,” the MAC report notes.

It issued a series of recommendations for the government to crack down on the exploitation of workers in the social care sector.

“Government could consider greater support for migrants when they enter employment and when experiencing exploitation in the UK… such as creating a portal specifically for the care sector where vacancies that would allow migrants to switch employer are posted,” it said.

MAC also called on the government to ensure higher wages for the sector on the whole in a bid to wean it off the over-reliance on lower-paid migrant workers.

Earlier this month, the Home Office announced that such care workers on a visa will be banned from bringing any close family members as dependents from the new year.

The move has been categorised as “extremely unfair” by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), the UK’s largest representative body for doctors and nurses of Indian origin.

“For anyone to provide a satisfactory and good quality care service, they can’t be separated from their own family,” said BAPIO founder Dr Ramesh Mehta.

(PTI)

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