03rd November 2023

3 mins read

Modern Slavery Probe: Exploitation of Migrant Carers Sparks Urgent Investigations

By Lihini Boteju

A comprehensive national investigation into the exploitation of migrant carers in the United Kingdom is currently underway, as disclosed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). The GLAA, an agency tasked with investigating criminal activities affecting workers in England and Wales, has identified the widespread exploitation of carers recruited from abroad as their foremost concern.

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According to the GLAA, the Health and Care Worker visa system is being misused by criminal groups, resulting in a continual inflow of allegations related to fraud and modern slavery. Martin Plimmer, a Senior Investigating Officer at GLAA, has revealed that over 30 ongoing investigations target care agencies operating illegally.

Care sector exploitation has surged since February 2022 when the UK government included care workers in the country’s Shortage Occupation List, permitting their recruitment from overseas. Skills For Care reported that in 2022/23, approximately 70,000 carers were recruited internationally, showcasing a significant spike from 20,000 carers in 2021/22. Carers now constitute a major portion of skilled work visas, accounting for two in every five issued.

Criminal entities have established nationwide companies with the explicit aim of exploiting vulnerable individuals seeking work in the UK. These unscrupulous parties exploit these individuals as a source of revenue by paying them significantly less than they are legally entitled to while charging excessive fees.

Instances of such exploitation have been discovered across the country. Human traffickers are known to exploit the Skilled Worker Visa route, leaving foreign care workers destitute and dependent on food banks for survival. Some illegal recruiters operate within the UK, running fake and fraudulent care agencies.

For instance, Sky News reports on various cases of carers who were trafficked and forced to pay surging amounts of illegal fees to receive certificates of sponsorship for Health and Carer visas, only to find no job waiting for him/her. After exhausting savings and borrowings, the carers are now trapped in a situation where they cannot return home, as their families rely on the promised income.

Other cases reported that several care homes have received numerous calls from unfamiliar care agencies offering free shifts. Some even have migrants appearing at their facilities, seeking employment. Such agencies often operate with questionable legitimacy and pose potential risks to the quality of care provided to vulnerable residents. Neil Russell, who operates PJ Care facilities in Milton Keynes and Peterborough, has seen a surge in approaches from care agencies in the past few months. While his company offers legitimate Health and Care Worker visa sponsorship, he has encountered agents charging workers for visas, a practice he considers akin to human trafficking and prevalent in the industry.

Modern slavery poses a considerable risk not just to carers but to the legitimacy and credibility of your care service. Learn more about what you can do by downloading our White Paper

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