From the blog

UK: Foreign Care Workers Caught In Debt Traps Over Care Agencies Exploitation

Several UK social care agencies have been accused of exploiting foreign workers, leaving migrants living on the breadline as they struggle to pay off debts run up while trying to secure jobs that fail to materialise.

Dozens of people working for 11 different care providers have narrated how they paid thousands of pounds to agents to secure jobs working in British care homes or residential care, with most finding limited or no employment when they arrived.

Many are now struggling to pay off huge debts in their home countries and having to work in irregular jobs for below the minimum wage.

Experts say the ban has failed to tackle the deeper issue of exploitation of the workers themselves, many of whom are still in the UK and living in poverty, afraid to leave their employers for fear of losing their visa status.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has now written to the leaders of all three major national parties to demand a full government inquiry into treatment of migrant care workers when parliament returns.

Prof Nicola Ranger, the acting general secretary of the RCN, said: “The exploitation of migrant care workers is a national scandal, but little has been done to tackle it.

“A chronically understaffed social care sector has supercharged its recruitment of staff from overseas and a lack of regulation and enforcement has allowed some employers to profit from the mistreatment of migrants.”

David Neal, who raised the alarm about the care visa system when he was the government’s borders inspector, said: “As soon as we looked at social care visas, we realised there was exploitation going on.”

Lawyers say UK care providers who promise regular full-time work and then offer exploitative or underpaid jobs on arrival may have broken the law. The sponsorship system means an individual’s visa status is tied to a particular employer, meaning many feels trapped.

The care industry has turned to migrant workers in their hundreds of thousands in recent years to solve labour shortages caused by Brexit and the Covid pandemic. The government granted 350,000 health and care visas in 2023 to workers and their dependants, accounting for 75% of all skilled worker visas issued.