UK Care Home Owners Rely on Foreign Staff Amid Severe Staffing Crisis
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UK Care Home Owners Rely on Foreign Staff Amid Severe Staffing Crisis

Lakshmy and Philip Pengelly, owners of Ashley Court Care Home in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, say they wouldn’t manage without the help of foreign staff. Due to staffing issues, they had to reduce occupancy until they started recruiting overseas workers.

With an election set to scrutinize immigration figures, many in the care sector express growing reliance on workers from countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. In 2022, the UK government introduced skilled worker visas for overseas care workers to address record staff shortages. This allowed care home operators like the Pengellys to sponsor foreign workers.

“Before, when we advertised jobs, we received few to no applicants,” Mrs. Pengelly said. “We had to stop taking admissions because we simply didn’t have the staff.”

The Pengellys describe staffing levels as “really concerning,” noting that Covid deterred many from working in social care. They have since recruited six new staff members from Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and India.

A Kind Heart Needed

Prospa Mbwera, 37, from Zimbabwe, was the first to join the Llanelli care home in 2022. “It was always our dream to come here,” he said. “When we saw the opportunity, we had to grab it.”

Mbwera, who had been a carer before arriving in the UK, said he had to adapt to UK and Welsh culture. “Some residents teach me Welsh,” he noted. “To do this job, you need a kind heart. It’s a calling.”

More than 78,000 overseas workers received long-term visas to work in care between 2022 and 2023, during a period of record immigration.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that new visa rules risk exploiting migrant workers. Helen Whyley of RCN Wales stated, “We have examples of members brought in on low wages or tied contracts, and poor accommodation.” Whyley emphasized the need for fair treatment and value for these workers.

Lack of Oversight

Mrs. Pengelly said no one from the Home Office had checked on their staff in 18 months. “There’s a process to log changes in the sponsorship account, but no follow-ups,” she explained.

Mbwera expressed gratitude for his positive experience, contrasting it with stories of exploitation. “I thought everyone had the same experience as mine. My flights were booked, and accommodation provided,” he said.

A Home Office spokesperson stated that the welfare of visa holders was of “paramount importance” and that over 200 sponsors in adult social care had been revoked.

Political Party Responses

Plaid Cymru emphasized the importance of migration in maintaining health and social care services, criticizing the Conservative government’s immigration policies.

The Liberal Democrats blamed “Conservative neglect” for the staffing crisis, calling for proper pay and treatment of care workers to reduce reliance on foreign labor.

Reform UK recognized the critical role of care workers but highlighted the need to address broader issues in the care sector and immigration policy. They advocated for freezing non-essential immigration and focusing on upskilling the domestic workforce.

Source: BBC

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