Agencies should ensure migrant carers can speak English

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According to King’s College London, about 20% of carers are migrant workers. This makes it important for care agencies to ensure that carers are able to speak English before they are placed in the home of a vulnerable person.

The Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health, Dr Shereen Hussein, has stated the poor language skills may lead to abuse and poor care.

Difficult Emotionally

The brother of a dementia sufferer relayed his story to the BBC. He stated that his 62-year brother suffers from a severe form of dementia and required care. He made the decision to employ carers to help with the care of his brother, but quickly became frustrated with the level of quality. The problem eventually became so bad that he decided to place his brother in a care home.

He stated that almost all the carers were foreign, mostly Polish. Some of them were extremely difficult to understand which caused his brother to react irrationally as he could not understand them.

Dr Hussein said that the immigration policy changes and relaxation of EU labour laws is the reason the migrant worker profile has changed. European migrants have a long history of working the care sector of the UK and had to prove their English proficiency before they could secure jobs as carers. However, the new arrivals from EU countries no longer have to prove proficiency.

Dr Hussein said this has made migrants vulnerable when placed in people’s homes and cases of discrimination and racism have been reported due to problems with communication.

Migrant workers have provided instances the problems they have experienced with communication. One of the carers stated that to do the job effectively, it is necessary to understand the instructions provided by the doctors, speak to the agencies and report to the relatives. Hajnalka Deak said that your job entails doing things for the person that they are unable to do themselves. This means you should be able to understand their instructions as soon as they are given. She worked with a wheelchair-user who had to be strapped up in the car. Unfortunately, because she did not understand the exact instructions, they remained at home at all times.
She said this made her feel embarrassed and frustrated.

Another migrant worker, Edna Maharig, said that language is not the only factor that makes a good carer. She stated that they have difficulty in understanding technical words and certain terms, but it is more important to understand a carer’s role and be empathetic.

Budget Cuts

Care agencies are normally contacted by local authorities to supply elderly and vulnerable adults with home care. Councils in England have had to endure massive budget cuts in this sector since 2011.

Colin Angel, a representative of the UK Home Care Association, has stated that Dr Hussein has identified an issue within home care at a time when budget are being stretched to its limit in social care. He said that the low rates that are currently being paid by local authorities makes it very difficult for agencies to offer additional paid training to their workers.

The government is set to introduce a training certificate for care workers from March 2015, however English language proficiency is not included in the training.

Image Credit: NCVO London

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