Whilst many sectors are experiencing challenges in recruitment following the covid 19 pandemic, the care sector has increasingly moved into what many are calling a recruitment crisis. With the number of care vacancies rising by 52% in the past decade and over 165,000 roles currently vacant, it came as a relief to many that In February 2022 the UK government put care workers on the shortage occupation list. This enabled providers to recruit carers from overseas under the skilled worker visa scheme. This has been a big help to many providers large and small.

The larger providers will have their own teams to monitor the sponsorship process, smaller providers often face obstacles to maintaining quality and compliance in their service. In this blog I speak of some of the considerations providers should take into account when employing overseas workers and remaining compliant. 

I would say the first and most obvious area of compliance is around the recruitment process, regulation 19. As a provider it is your responsibility to ensure your worker has the right to work in the UK and for how many hours. If you are recruiting a carer from another country how will you ensure you have a robust criminal check when the DBS service cannot access criminal records held overseas? Are you able to obtain a full work history from your candidate? What about obtaining references in another language? Does your candidate hold any formal qualifications and are you able to verify them?

Once you have completed the recruitment checks as required, can you be sure the candidate has the appropriate skills and experience to provide safe care and treatment to your clients as per regulation 12? Are they able to communicate with your clients using the most suitable means of communication as required in Regulation 9? A common difficulty for overseas staff is the vast range of regional accents across the UK, along with regional slang and dialects, it can be upsetting for staff and clients not to be understood. If the worker is speaking with a strong accent that is difficult for a client to understand, will there be team members on hand to help? If communication is poor, how will you evidence safe care? 

Providers will need to meet the requirement of regulation 18 to provide their staff with ‘such appropriate support, training, professional development, supervision and appraisal as is necessary to enable them to carry out the duties they are employed to perform’. The new CQC strategy also places an emphasis on staff feedback, and the need for staff to feel supported. 

Newly appointed overseas workers will have vastly different needs to your British born staff, or even overseas workers who have been in the country and adapted to a new way of life or now have family here.  What is the ethnic makeup of the area you are bringing the overseas worker into? Have you considered the probability your overseas staff will experience some form of racism both in the community and workplace? Are you prepared to be open and honest and deal with any situations that arise in the workplace, have you prepared both groups and are you willing to work hard to encourage the integration of new staff into your workplace culture? Since the publication of the winterbourne view scandal, CQC are alert to closed cultures. 

How will you look after each of these different groups and meet their well-being needs?  Without having their social and emotional needs met, your staff whatever nationality will have difficulty performing at their best and giving good quality care. You will need to first understand what your staff need – and if you have an overseas worker from an equatorial country, that may be as simple as starting with obtaining warm clothes! Another main need will be for companionship to prevent isolation when new to the area. The temptation may be for the worker to volunteer for more shifts for the company and money, and the provider tempted to let them work to the point of burnout if it saves agency fees. Don’t be tempted to do this as Regulation 18 safe staffing will also take into consideration your rota and hours people are working, it is a false economy and dangerous for your staff and clients. 

How will you train your staff in the mandatory subjects? Are they from a culture where learning is formal in rows at desks and in the quiet, so how will they learn if you have interactive group activity? Or vice versa are they used to group work and can you be sure they will learn well by doing online courses? You will need to understand their learning style and level of English to ensure they are able to reach full competency. 

Do you understand the culture of care your overseas worker comes from? There are different ways different countries care for their vulnerable people. In some cultures, the elderly are super respected and a younger person will not even try to persuade an elder to do anything they don’t want, or vice versa and your new recruit may not understand the mental capacity act and the need for best interest decisions. Simple differences like the tone of voice can easily be misconstrued or incorrect grammar can appear disrespectful. Do they understand the type of care they are required to give to your clients, do they understand the need to adhere to the care plan when faced with a choice to assist or encourage? 

In summary, there are a lot of considerations to take into account when employing an overseas care worker. Many of the challenges can be handled with adequate preparation and good follow-up pastoral care. Most importantly overseas recruitment can be a real help to the worker and the industry when done right.

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