Migrant family ban makes no sense without proper reform of social care, says UNISON

Commenting on the announcement from care minister Helen Whately that migrant care staff coming to the UK will be banned from bringing family with them after mid-March, UNISON head of social Gavin Edwards said:

“Care companies couldn’t function without migrant care workers. Firms have to recruit from overseas because the government’s done nothing to solve the care staffing crisis.

“Ministers’ reckless changes to immigration policy spell disaster for social care. Until pay rates rise substantially, there’ll never be enough UK-based recruits to plug the huge hole in the care workforce. 

“New career paths and qualifications might sound impressive, but they won’t change a thing unless the minimum wage stops being the norm in care.

“The ban on families means overseas care staff will be much less likely to come to work in the UK. The few that do will be more isolated and at even greater risk of exploitation.

“But migrant workers are still very much needed. Ministers know this, yet don’t seem to care.

“A national care service, with a new fair pay agreement, and a real commitment to turn the sector around is what’s needed to give everyone in need of care the best support possible.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Dan Ashley M: 07908 672893 E: d.ashley@unison.co.uk 

The article Migrant family ban makes no sense without proper reform of social care, says UNISON first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Migrant family ban makes no sense without proper reform of social care, says UNISON

Commenting on the announcement from care minister Helen Whately that migrant care staff coming to the UK will be banned from bringing family with them after mid-March, UNISON head of social Gavin Edwards said:

“Care companies couldn’t function without migrant care workers. Firms have to recruit from overseas because the government’s done nothing to solve the care staffing crisis.

“Ministers’ reckless changes to immigration policy spell disaster for social care. Until pay rates rise substantially, there’ll never be enough UK-based recruits to plug the huge hole in the care workforce. 

“New career paths and qualifications might sound impressive, but they won’t change a thing unless the minimum wage stops being the norm in care.

“The ban on families means overseas care staff will be much less likely to come to work in the UK. The few that do will be more isolated and at even greater risk of exploitation.

“But migrant workers are still very much needed. Ministers know this, yet don’t seem to care.

“A national care service, with a new fair pay agreement, and a real commitment to turn the sector around is what’s needed to give everyone in need of care the best support possible.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Dan Ashley M: 07908 672893 E: d.ashley@unison.co.uk 

The article Migrant family ban makes no sense without proper reform of social care, says UNISON first appeared on the UNISON National site.

NEC hears of shocking conditions imposed on migrant care workers

Meeting in London and online yesterday, UNISON’s national executive council (NEC) condemned the resumption of violence in Gaza and repeated the union’s call for an immediate ceasefire.

General secretary Christina McAnea and president Libby Nolan told the meeting how emotional they had found addressing some of the recent peace rallies. They stressed how important it was to explain the union’s position on the war in the Middle East.

The NEC discussed and agreed a new statement on the Gaza-Israel conflict.

Elsewhere, the general secretary updated the NEC on various pay disputes across the UK. Ms McAnea said it was “utterly shocking” that health members in Northern Ireland still hadn’t received a pay deal – a situation that was affecting every union with members working in health.

She also noted that school members in Northern Ireland were currently taking action and that members in Scotland had received a revised offer for local government members which they had accepted. “Colleagues in Scotland did a very good job of getting an improved offer for members,” noted the general secretary.

On the ongoing Pay Fair for Patient Care campaign, Ms McAnea noted it was “going from strength to strength”.

She said: “It was utterly inspiring to meet members who have never been that active before. The campaign has resulted in fantastic sign-up from non-members who perhaps feel for the first time that the union is speaking up for them.

“Members are taking the action and are leading the campaign,” she added.

The meeting also covered the recent publishing of UNISON’s report Expendable Labour. It details the shocking conditions that migrant workers are forced into when they are encouraged to come to the UK to work in social care.

They heard that migrant social care workers are propping up social care but are being exploited by employers and that the government could step in and help, but instead they’ve taken to demonising them.

The general secretary told the meeting: “It was a complete knee-jerk reaction to appease the Tory party’s right-wing backbenchers and they’re completely obsessed with this policy.

Ms McAnea said the union was getting calls from members who are worried. “It’s all very unclear at the moment – but this will have a massive knock-on effect in health and social care as there’s a global shortage of care staff.”

Finally, the NEC heard that the recent declaration of bankruptcy from Nottingham council would not be the last as local government “was the sector hit the hardest by the current government’s policies of the last 13 years” and that the union’s equal pay campaign was continuing across the country.

The article NEC hears of shocking conditions imposed on migrant care workers first appeared on the UNISON National site.

NEC hears of shocking conditions imposed on migrant care workers

Meeting in London and online yesterday, UNISON’s national executive council (NEC) condemned the resumption of violence in Gaza and repeated the union’s call for an immediate ceasefire.

General secretary Christina McAnea and president Libby Nolan told the meeting how emotional they had found addressing some of the recent peace rallies. They stressed how important it was to explain the union’s position on the war in the Middle East.

The NEC discussed and agreed a new statement on the Gaza-Israel conflict.

Elsewhere, the general secretary updated the NEC on various pay disputes across the UK. Ms McAnea said it was “utterly shocking” that health members in Northern Ireland still hadn’t received a pay deal – a situation that was affecting every union with members working in health.

She also noted that school members in Northern Ireland were currently taking action and that members in Scotland had received a revised offer for local government members which they had accepted. “Colleagues in Scotland did a very good job of getting an improved offer for members,” noted the general secretary.

On the ongoing Pay Fair for Patient Care campaign, Ms McAnea noted it was “going from strength to strength”.

She said: “It was utterly inspiring to meet members who have never been that active before. The campaign has resulted in fantastic sign-up from non-members who perhaps feel for the first time that the union is speaking up for them.

“Members are taking the action and are leading the campaign,” she added.

The meeting also covered the recent publishing of UNISON’s report Expendable Labour. It details the shocking conditions that migrant workers are forced into when they are encouraged to come to the UK to work in social care.

They heard that migrant social care workers are propping up social care but are being exploited by employers and that the government could step in and help, but instead they’ve taken to demonising them.

The general secretary told the meeting: “It was a complete knee-jerk reaction to appease the Tory party’s right-wing backbenchers and they’re completely obsessed with this policy.

Ms McAnea said the union was getting calls from members who are worried. “It’s all very unclear at the moment – but this will have a massive knock-on effect in health and social care as there’s a global shortage of care staff.”

Finally, the NEC heard that the recent declaration of bankruptcy from Nottingham council would not be the last as local government “was the sector hit the hardest by the current government’s policies of the last 13 years” and that the union’s equal pay campaign was continuing across the country.

The article NEC hears of shocking conditions imposed on migrant care workers first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Blog: The final hammer blow to our crumbling social care system

The government has put the final hammer blow to our crumbling social care system. The home secretary’s announcement of new immigration plans will sacrifice migrant care workers and risk a total collapse of the UK’s care system, just to appease extremist Tory backbenchers.

The health and care visa was introduced in 2020 to plug workforce gaps, but because headlines of soaring immigration numbers are compounding Rishi Sunak’s polling problems, he’s playing roulette with our essential services.

Had he, or his ministers, spoken to any employer in the care sector, they would know that any plans to curb the migrant care workforce will cause utter disaster. Not allowing migrant care workers to bring any dependants with them to the UK, will do exactly that. Potential recruits will be put off coming to the UK, and the ones already here may have to send dependants home when their visas come up for renewal.

Staff vacancies will soar from the current number of 152,000, and I don’t see a queue of British workers waiting to take up those posts. We will see care homes closing and care companies going bust.

UNISON had just released findings of appalling abuse of the migrant workers propping up social care, in its report Expendable Labour. These new plans will leave migrant care workers vulnerable to more abuse, as they can only come to the UK isolated, with no close family with them.

Finally, everyone in the UK can see what little regard this government has for the people who rely on social care, for care workers and their employers. But why would government ministers be so careless with people’s lives and so reckless with one of the biggest industries in the UK?

Maybe it’s because its workforce is predominantly low-paid women, doing work they view as low value and low intelligence. This was made clear yesterday by the home secretary in his announcement in the House of Commons.

While migrant care workers won’t be allowed to bring family with them to the UK, he said that international students coming to the UK on postgraduate research programmes could bring dependants, because, as he said, “we always want to attract the global brightest and best”.

I find the stirring of culture wars and spouting of anti-immigrant rhetoric sickening. I’ve clashed with characters from the far right on TV recently and when they talk about ‘British culture’, I’m left confused. Because I always thought we were a country that strived to be caring and welcoming. But what’s more callous than putting our older and vulnerable citizens at risk and being hostile to the people who come here to care for them.

The article Blog: The final hammer blow to our crumbling social care system first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Blog: The final hammer blow to our crumbling social care system

The government has put the final hammer blow to our crumbling social care system. The home secretary’s announcement of new immigration plans will sacrifice migrant care workers and risk a total collapse of the UK’s care system, just to appease extremist Tory backbenchers.

The health and care visa was introduced in 2020 to plug workforce gaps, but because headlines of soaring immigration numbers are compounding Rishi Sunak’s polling problems, he’s playing roulette with our essential services.

Had he, or his ministers, spoken to any employer in the care sector, they would know that any plans to curb the migrant care workforce will cause utter disaster. Not allowing migrant care workers to bring any dependants with them to the UK, will do exactly that. Potential recruits will be put off coming to the UK, and the ones already here may have to send dependants home when their visas come up for renewal.

Staff vacancies will soar from the current number of 152,000, and I don’t see a queue of British workers waiting to take up those posts. We will see care homes closing and care companies going bust.

UNISON had just released findings of appalling abuse of the migrant workers propping up social care, in its report Expendable Labour. These new plans will leave migrant care workers vulnerable to more abuse, as they can only come to the UK isolated, with no close family with them.

Finally, everyone in the UK can see what little regard this government has for the people who rely on social care, for care workers and their employers. But why would government ministers be so careless with people’s lives and so reckless with one of the biggest industries in the UK?

Maybe it’s because its workforce is predominantly low-paid women, doing work they view as low value and low intelligence. This was made clear yesterday by the home secretary in his announcement in the House of Commons.

While migrant care workers won’t be allowed to bring family with them to the UK, he said that international students coming to the UK on postgraduate research programmes could bring dependants, because, as he said, “we always want to attract the global brightest and best”.

I find the stirring of culture wars and spouting of anti-immigrant rhetoric sickening. I’ve clashed with characters from the far right on TV recently and when they talk about ‘British culture’, I’m left confused. Because I always thought we were a country that strived to be caring and welcoming. But what’s more callous than putting our older and vulnerable citizens at risk and being hostile to the people who come here to care for them.

The article Blog: The final hammer blow to our crumbling social care system first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Blog: The shocking treatment of migrant workers harms us all

UNISON has gathered evidence of appalling exploitation of migrant workers by unscrupulous care bosses.

Care is one of the biggest industries in the UK, but also one of the most precarious. It’s broken, on the brink of collapse and only being propped up by the work of migrants.

Workers from abroad have sold everything they own to come here and care for people. But instead of receiving decent pay and conditions, and being treated with dignity and respect, the UK government is letting employers get away with terrible practices that should be consigned to history.

Our report, Expendable Labour details shocking treatment of migrant care workers in the UK care system.

We found the ultimate abuse of workers. Brought over here on false promises of a better life and charged dodgy fees that cost them their homes and savings. Some find they’re either overworked on 80 hours a week, or given too few hours to survive off. Given inadequate training, living in poor conditions and threatened with deportation if they speak out.

To top it off, ministers are demonising migrant workers by blaming them for all the country’s woes. They’re complicit in allowing the abuse to continue and in a raging culture war that’s now targeting low paid migrant workers.

Rather than focusing on fixing social care and ensuring decent pay and care for those who need it, the likes of Robert Jenrick, Minister for Immigration, are happy to see the care system completely collapse. His suggestions of capping visas for care workers and his desire to prevent them from bringing children or other dependent family members with them, will only make the problems in care worse.

Any increase on the current 152,000 care staff vacancies spells deep trouble for the whole sector.

So we’re calling on the government to take urgent action to stop that from happening.

Immigration reform and the creation of a national care service are the answer.

Visa extensions would allow care workers more time to seek employment with a new sponsor, and a national care service would ensure decent pay, terms and conditions to prevent abuse and exploitation.

Fixing social care ultimately means guaranteed support for those who need it. But it would also help to grow our economy. And what better way to do it, than through a national care service that everyone can be proud of.

The article Blog: The shocking treatment of migrant workers harms us all first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Blog: The shocking treatment of migrant workers harms us all

UNISON has gathered evidence of appalling exploitation of migrant workers by unscrupulous care bosses.

Care is one of the biggest industries in the UK, but also one of the most precarious. It’s broken, on the brink of collapse and only being propped up by the work of migrants.

Workers from abroad have sold everything they own to come here and care for people. But instead of receiving decent pay and conditions, and being treated with dignity and respect, the UK government is letting employers get away with terrible practices that should be consigned to history.

Our report, Expendable Labour details shocking treatment of migrant care workers in the UK care system.

We found the ultimate abuse of workers. Brought over here on false promises of a better life and charged dodgy fees that cost them their homes and savings. Some find they’re either overworked on 80 hours a week, or given too few hours to survive off. Given inadequate training, living in poor conditions and threatened with deportation if they speak out.

To top it off, ministers are demonising migrant workers by blaming them for all the country’s woes. They’re complicit in allowing the abuse to continue and in a raging culture war that’s now targeting low paid migrant workers.

Rather than focusing on fixing social care and ensuring decent pay and care for those who need it, the likes of Robert Jenrick, Minister for Immigration, are happy to see the care system completely collapse. His suggestions of capping visas for care workers and his desire to prevent them from bringing children or other dependent family members with them, will only make the problems in care worse.

Any increase on the current 152,000 care staff vacancies spells deep trouble for the whole sector.

So we’re calling on the government to take urgent action to stop that from happening.

Immigration reform and the creation of a national care service are the answer.

Visa extensions would allow care workers more time to seek employment with a new sponsor, and a national care service would ensure decent pay, terms and conditions to prevent abuse and exploitation.

Fixing social care ultimately means guaranteed support for those who need it. But it would also help to grow our economy. And what better way to do it, than through a national care service that everyone can be proud of.

The article Blog: The shocking treatment of migrant workers harms us all first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Care dominates debate at national delegate conference

UNISON’s national delegate conference turned its focus to care on Wednesday morning with a set of motions on the issue.

Moving the first, on the social care crisis, Rosie MacGregor (above) of the retired members forum told delegates: “It isn’t the first time we’ve considered the need for reform of adult social care – but despite our active campaigning and the meaningless promises from the government, nothing, nothing has changed.”

She went on to highlight the dual failings of the system, both for the service users and the workers who provide care. Asking delegates: “Is it any wonder that many leave the profession due to poor working conditions and inadequate pay. We must continue to campaign for a society where care workers are fairly treated.”

One delegate, who had worked in care for 20 years gave an emotional speech in which she told the story of a man she had worked with, who decided to work in a residential as the consistent hours would allow him to spend more time with his young family.

“Three weeks later,” she said, “He was dead. COVID ripped through his care home. And for what? Minimum wage and zero-hours contracts? That’s not just unfair, its criminal. And all the while the private companies lay back and roll around in the profits.”

Another speaker told conference of their adult autistic son and the effect it had on his family when his son was placed in a residential care home over 100 miles away from where they lived. He said that every time they visited, he was being cared for by a different care worker “there was no consistency.”

He left delegates with the message: “You cannot put a price on an individual’s quality of life.”

The motion reasserted UNISON’s support for a national care service to bring about consistent standards of care and consistent terms and conditions for the workforce. Speakers noted the work of the union in commissioning the recent Fabian Society report – Support Guaranteed.

Delegates credited the report with outlining the roadmap and the building blocks required to create such a service but were quick to add that simply the idea of a national care service wasn’t enough.

Speakers in further care debates in the morning, told of the stark difference in approach from the Welsh and Scottish governments. Conference heard how, in Scotland, the government’s plans, though a ‘national care service’ in name, amount to little more than a charter for private companies.

Tony Slaven said: “The Scottish government are promoting something they call a national care service and make the comparison to the NHS.” But he argued that the government’s plans to create ’a vibrant market of care’, was just another way to privatise the sector.

He said that for private companies, “The people who need the service are cash cows to be milked and the people who provide the service are a cost to be squeezed.”

The motion argued that Scotland’s situation demonstrates that it is not enough to assume that all stakeholders share our principles and values for a national care service.

Speaking to that point Mark Chiverton called for UNISON to work for a national care service to be a “properly democratic organisation. Accountable to local representatives and accountable to the workforce.”

Jan Tomlinson of Cymru/Wales carecarecaremoved a motion which highlighted the positive work currently being done under a Labour government in Wales, under a tripartite approach (employers, unions and governments working together), telling delegates: “Each nation can learn from our experience in Wales and how we have been driving change.”

Highlighting the union’s work she said: “Progress hasn’t happened by accident – when UNISON started campaigning for a national care service in Wales in 2021, no-one was talking about it,”

She asked delegates to go back to their branches to speak to their members and “tell them – if Wales can do it, so can we.”

To round off the morning of debate on the subject, a conference fringe event – campaigning for a national care service – saw a panel of stakeholders and experts discuss the current approaches of the Scottish and Welsh governments, in detail.

The panel, and delegates, then examined how the lessons learnt from those can be applied to UNISON’s campaign, Make Care Work, to create a positive vision for the service.

The article Care dominates debate at national delegate conference first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Support Guaranteed: The roadmap to a national care service

UNISON joined the Fabian Society to launch the first ever roadmap to a national care service at an event in Westminster late last week.

The event marked the launch of Support Guaranteed, a report commissioned by UNISON but produced independently by the society.

Introducing the report, co-author and general secretary of the Fabian Society Andrew Harrop said: “The backdrop of the project is an adult social care system on its knees. Since 2010, spending on adult care has fallen hugely, relative to levels of need, and poor pay and conditions have helped trigger a staffing crisis in the sector with 165,000 vacancies.

“But extra spending will not be enough to address these problems on its own. Money must come with reform.”

He moved on to summarise the five key themes of the report with his co-author, Ben Cooper:

  1. a fair workforce settlement – the most pressing of the issues as, without a new deal for care workers, the system will not be able to recruit and retain the people required;
  2. building a service for everyone – support would be available to anyone needing help, regardless of means;
  3. a system with stronger rights and entitlements – people will have control and choice over the support they get;
  4. making adult social care a comprehensive service – end the postcode lottery in support and provision and create a care service with government, councils and licensed care providers united in a shared purpose; and
  5. see it become more affordable over time – at a time when public finances are tight, it is crucial to help those who are missing out on support to access what they need, as well as making it more affordable.

Ben Cooper speaking at the launch of support guarenteed

Ben Cooper outlining the themes of the report

Mr Cooper continued: “What Andy and I have outlined today is a substantial package of reform that would take at least 10 years to realise.

“The national care service is a shared national endeavour to give every individual the right support in the right way at the right time to live well and independently. It would be transformative to the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people, older people and carers.

“I know this because – as someone who will draw on social care in the future, either in the next few years or the next few decades – the idea of a national care service gives me confidence and security. Confidence that whenever that day comes, it will not be a moment of fear.

“Just as the past generation built the NHS for the 20th century, we can build an NCS for the 21st.”

Mr Cooper and Mr Harrop were joined by UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea and shadow health and social care minister Wes Streeting MP in a panel moderated by Dr Anna Dixon.

Wes Streeting MP, shadow minister for health and social care, speaking at the launch of support guarenteed

Wes Streeting outlining Labour’s policy around adult social care

Mr Streeting spoke about Labour’s commitment to reform in the care sector. He started by telling the audience: “I’ve reached the stage of life where social care has become personal rather than just political.

“But as soon as any of us have to rely on the social care system, it becomes clear it’s not an adequate safety net. ‘Cradle to grave’ increasingly feels like a dream that has not been achieved.

“And if there was one moment that put to bed, forever, the Conservative’s claim to be the party on the side of working people, it’s surely this: carers told to isolate without sick pay in the middle of a global pandemic. No one should be forced to choose between going to work to feed your family, or isolating at home to protect public health.

“People who receive and deliver care have been let down time and again by broken Tory promises. I’m not going to repeat their mistakes. There will be no well-meaning, wishful thinking before an election, only to see promises broken by contact with the hard realities of government.

“Instead, we’ll be honest with ourselves, with you and with the country about what we can actually deliver in the first term of a Labour government. And that’s why this report is so important, it gives us a lot to think about and reflect on as we think about Labour’s next manifesto and our longer-term ambitions.”

Christina McAnea speaking at the launch of support guarenteed
Christina McAnea addresses UNISON’s priorities in adult social care

After the shadow minister spoke, Christina McAnea also gave her thoughts on the report: “This report is extremely comprehensive and I believe it strikes just the right balance of being sufficiently ambitious, given the state of the care sector at the moment, but also providing a practical, realistic roadmap for overhaul and renewal.

“It is the first time we’ve had a detailed plan about how a government could go about achieving this. And the hope is that it will provide a really important contribution to the wider social care debate and specifically to the development of a national care service.

“Change is required more desperately than ever. But it must be the right change, because it’s too important to get wrong. You can’t just continue to throw money at an unreformed system because too much of it fails to reach the services and the people who need it.

“We also need to change the narrative around social care, it is not a drain on our economy, it is a driver of our economy. It is an essential part of the infrastructure that keeps the economy ticking, just as people need trains to run and roads to drive on. We need a care service.

“It does genuinely feel to me, and I hope to you all too, that this generation of politicians and policy makers have an opportunity to make that once in a lifetime shift. To make history when it comes to a national care service.

“We should be bold, we should be ambitious and we should end that sticking plaster approach to social care and actually go for some radical surgery.”

An audience member at the launch of support guarenteed, holding a microphone, asks a question of the panel

After the speeches, the panel fielded questions from attendees, including care workers, key industry stakeholders and journalists, on a range of topics including:

  • professionalisation of care work;
  • gender equality in the workforce;
  • the proposed role of local authorities in a national care service; and
  • how the NHS and a national care service would work in tandem.

One UNISON care worker who attended the event said: “Hopefully, going forward, things are going to change and improve for everyone in the care sector – today has been a really positive event. It’s going to take a while, and maybe in my life I might not see every change I’d like to see, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

L-R Dr Anna Dixon, Christina McAnea, Ben Cooper and Andrew Harrop
L-R Dr Anna Dixon, Christina McAnea, Ben Cooper and Andrew Harrop
Christina McAnea (centre) with 5 UNISON care workers from the North West and Gavin Williams (right)
Christina McAnea (centre) with five UNISON care workers from the North West and UNISON national officer Gavin Edwards (right)
Christina McAnea talks to one of the attendees of the support guaranteed launch event

The article Support Guaranteed: The roadmap to a national care service first appeared on the UNISON National site.