Right to work in care homes for asylum seekers is welcome but..

Loraine Masiya Mponela

In order to solve the current crisis in the care industry, the UK government is planning to allow asylum seekers who have waited for home office decisions on their cases for over 1 year to work in care homes. This would be reviewed after 1 year.

It is a welcome move and presents some level of hope to asylum seekers who generally live below the poverty line.

I personally have worked in care for over 7 years in the past and I specialized in palliative care when I had the right to work. I will always value the experience and privilege of having been to support people before leaving the world. So I know how important this work is. It transformed my life to say the least.

However, allowing asylum seekers to work in care industry ONLY presents its own challenges. Not all asylum seekers who meet the right to work criteria can actually work in care for a number of reasons:

Let us face it: Care work is not for everyone. In my opinion Care work is about making a difference in someone’s life. We can all only be our best when we do something that we have the passion for. Assuming that everyone can do care work is problematic in that sense.

There are asylum seekers who are specialists in their own right but their professions are not among the (in)famous Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Why can’t they just be who they are? The emotional cost of being an asylum seeker is already too much, why complicate it further?

To work in care you go through what is called a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, to make sure that everyone who work with vulnerable people has capacity to do so. This may also be an issue for some. Instead of going for another job other than care, these people would live as though they do not have right to work because their right to work is restricted to care only-which they cant do.

Most of the care work skills are the skills that we already have such as communication, respect and dignity, feeding, bathing etc. However, there are professional etiquettes and processes and procedures that one needs to be aware of before joining care. Moreover we are all from different cultures and some things are done differently which you can only be aware of if you have gone through some form of induction or training which is usually followed by shadowing-before you can start to work. Some of these trainings are mandatory and require some level of English to be able to understand and pass so you can be expected to perform at a minimum standard as required by the regulators, Care Quality Commission. Clear documentation, as much as everything else, is crucial in care work. Unless if its someone whose English is already at certain level, this is a major hindrance to others.

Also, working while living in NASS accommodation has its own challenges. The question therefore is will asylum seekers have right to rent? How about driving licence because most care jobs are easier if you drive.

Bank accounts for asylum seekers is still a grey area for asylum seekers in my opinion and most employers pay through the bank only.

The new right to work legislation is silent on Migrants who have waited for a decision for over 1 year. Would the right to work extend to them? If not, why?

Mandatory vaccines for care staff may be another barrier for those who haven’t made a decision.

In general, asylum seekers need to be aware of other policies that are in place such as how to deal with prejudice and racism in the workplace for their well-being and safety before getting into trouble themselves

Last but not least, just the fact that asylum seekers have to work in care only because there’s a shortage crisis is distasteful. Asylum seekers need to work but in the area that they love, not just being used as some commodity.

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