Migrant care workers face pay discrimination, service user hostility and a lack of government recognition, despite the sector’s increasing dependence on them.
Study findings out last week found the proportion of foreign-born care staff working with older people in the UK had more than doubled to 19% in the past 10 years. Some 12% of staff have entered the country since 1998.
Migrant employment driven by low pay
The influx has been driven by employers’ inability to attract UK-born workers at current pay.
Most migrants were recruited after entering the UK – including as students, working holidaymakers or refugees – rather than on work permits, which are now only open to senior care workers who earn more than £7.80 an hour.
Although employers valued the contribution that migrants made, the report, by Oxford University’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, found evidence of discrimination, including pay below the minimum wage. The study called for this to be investigated.
Some racial abuse
Some 41% of employers said migrants were sometimes poorly received by clients, while some complained of racial abuse.
The report said managers often received no training on how to handle these situations, and that older people directly employing carers needed guidance on their responsibility not to discriminate.
The report said the role of migrants was not being properly planned by government with a lack of co-ordination in immigration and social care policies.
Training ban ‘counter-productive’
This was evidenced by a “counter-productive” ban on non-European Union migrants accessing publicly-funded NVQ training in their first three years.
Given demographic pressures, the report said the number of migrants in the sector would have to rise unless the government significantly increased funding and pay to attract UK-born staff. It said the government may have to consider letting employers recruit directly from outside Europe.
Mandy Thorn, vice-chair of the National Care Association, praised the report and admitted there had been discrimination by employers. But she warned that “there’s not going to be a magic pot of money” for social care, nor was there a “political will” for a more positive approach to migrants.