Modern slavery and exploitation are escalating within the social care sector in the U.K. following the relaxation of immigration rules to address staffing shortages. The Guardian reports that this surge has resulted in workers not being compensated, cramped into unfit living conditions, and excessive fees paid to agents for visa costs only worth a fraction of the price.
Troubling figures and words of concern
The sharp increase in modern slavery cases coincides with the government’s decision in February 2022 to make foreign social care workers eligible for temporary visas, filling over 165,000 vacancies but creating a wave of exploitation. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) warned that modern slavery has become a feature of the U.K.’s social care sector, and cases reported to the CQC have increased tenfold in the last three years.
Unseen, a U.K.-based anti-slavery charity said it recorded at least 800 potential victims of modern slavery last year based on calls to its helpline. This figure is an increase of more than 1100% since 2021. Justine Carter, director of Unseen states:
“We have seen year-on-year rises in the number of cases indicating modern slavery – the most serious end of exploitation. Social care is fundamental to communities. You want to know, if you need care and support, that the people giving that care are not being exploited or, even worse, are victims of modern slavery.”
“People are regularly paying over £11,000 to agents and care companies to come to the UK when the actual cost of visas and flights are unlikely to be much more than £1,500. Many are finding no work or severely reduced hours and cramped and substandard accommodation.”
Jane Townson of the Homecare Association said,
“Unscrupulous providers were “scamming [foreign workers] for thousands of pounds and putting them in cockroach-infested rooms… Some of the stories we hear are utterly shameful and outrageous. We strongly condemn exploitation of workers and abuse of the skilled visa route.”
Ethical recruitment and support for victims is a must
Unfortunately, while the migrant workers in the care sector are being subjected to modern slavery, many are likely to fall below the unfair and high legal threshold for human trafficking or slavery. Additionally, persons often are hesitant to come forward and make a complaint as they remain in debt and fear that family members back home may be vulnerable.
As the number of potential victims of modern slavery in the social care sector rises dramatically, urgent calls are made for comprehensive checks on private care firms employing migrant workers. The need for ethical recruitment practices, fair wages, and suitable living conditions for care workers is emphasized to ensure the well-being of those providing essential services in the U.K.
Demand the U.K. to put an end to hostile and ill-thought-out visa scheme that perpetuates modern slavery and exploitation. Sign our petition and call for genuine anti-trafficking immigration policies.