Care work is an essential and vital service, and over the past few years, the UK care sector has faced something of a crisis, namely a severe lack of qualified staff available to support vulnerable individuals in need of assistance. As a result, the UK Government has made it easier for overseas care workers to enter the country, in order to help fill the thousands of residential home vacancies through sponsorships.
However, such sponsorship incentives are potentially open to exploitation, and this hidden yet pervasive issue is highlighted in the below article recently published by the BBC:
As the article details, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) has shed light on the shocking conditions faced by workers within the sector, raising questions about the rights and protections afforded to these essential care providers.
The GLAA highlights several disturbing key points that have contributed to labour exploitation. Firstly, the care sector has seen a rise in the number of unscrupulous labour providers exploiting vulnerable individuals overseas, luring them to the UK with the promise of an attractive salary and accommodation package, and on their arrival into the country, subjecting them to substandard working conditions, excessive working hours, and unfair pay or even non-payment of wages.
As directly reported by many of these care staff, there are issues stemming from excessive working hours and inadequate breaks that many of these workers have forced upon them. The relentless demands of the sector often result in burnout, mental health challenges, and diminished quality of care for service users. The exploitation not only affects the workers but has wider implications for those they are entrusted to care for.
The story also highlights the involvement of recruitment agencies within this activity. Agencies are often seen by these so-called ‘gangmasters’ as an easy way of getting the workers that they exploit into work, and without the proper safeguards in place, can also unwittingly become part of the exploitation cycle, and can lead to catastrophic legal consequences and moral dilemmas for all involved.
Our care worker interviews are carried out on a one-to-one basis by QS Care’s own consultants, each of whom are given full training around modern day slavery and the tell-tale signs of exploitation, so we can ascertain on first meeting whether the candidate is both suitable to work in the role they have applied for, that the communication skills for a worker are satisfactory for a care environment, as well as having full relevant qualifications and the right to work within the UK. Our mandatory reference checks are all performed in a timely manner, so our clients have the piece of mind that their residents are in safe hands.
Our workers personal details and skillsets are all recorded onto our database, which have restrictions in place to guarantee that a worker without the correct qualifications cannot be put onto a booking, and in turn safeguard the home against care staff that may put their residents at risk through improper procedure.
Upon request, worker profiles can be easily generated and forwarded onto the client, detailing full qualifications, work history, references and a full photograph, so the home can have the peace of mind that they will be receiving the exact member of staff that they have requested from us. Booking confirmations are also sent by email to both the client and the worker, reiterating all information (including profiles) that may have only previously been relayed over the phone, adding that extra layer of protection.
To ensure that we can be confident that all wages are received by the worker, and not unscrupulous third parties, QS Care only ever pay directly into the account of the worker, with full bank details confirmed at point of interview, so again extra protections are put into place to safeguard both the home and the potential carer. Weekly wage slips are also available to the worker at any time, via an online portal, which features a full breakdown of all financial information, so hopefully no one is left in the dark as to what they have earned, or how many hours they have worked.
QS Care also perform regular site visits to our clients for many reasons, all based around the protection of all parties involved. These are to first get a feel for what the exact requirements are for each home, and what the environment is like, so we can ascertain what kind of worker would fit in best there. This is also to evaluate what the health and safety precautions are at any given home, so our workers can also be satisfied that every is being done to allow them to perform their role in a safe and clean setting. We also maintain constant regular contact with all of our workers, this ensures that we are made aware of any issues or suspicions of foul play as soon as these arise and can act accordingly.
Sadly, while exploitation in all its forms is always going to be difficult for society to fully eradicate, by putting best practices into place, we can ensure that we do everything we can to raise awareness, engage in dialogue, and take action to minimise the fallout for everyone involved in this abhorrent practice.