Gwyneth Dunwoody MP launched an astonishing attack on the Home Office over its shambolic and incompetent handling of Senior Carer Work Permits in a 30 minute Parliamentary Debate earlier this week.
The debate, tabled by the outspoken Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Crewe and Nantwich, was attended by Immigration Minister Liam Byrne and 24 MPs, all of whom have received numerous visits from worried carers and employers.
In a stunning speech, Mrs Dunwoody outlined the desperate plight of thousands of overseas carers and their families from the Philippines and other countries now facing deportation.
“Some months ago, I was approached in my constituency by a series of Filipino care workers who, to be frank, I did not know existed in my constituency. They gave me the names of – and information about – three care homes, owned by Southern Cross Healthcare. They told me that they, who had been working for periods of between four and six years in this country, almost all of them with children in local schools, mortgages and stable homes, had suddenly been confronted with a case that they had never expected.”
She lambasted the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) for “changing the rules of the game” without warning or consultation:
“The new Border and Immigration Agency had decided, without, as far as I can see, any consultation with Parliament, that the rules for care workers needed to be changed. The work permit applications for senior care workers were altered in such a way that people who had been working sensibly and quietly at difficult jobs were told that their work permits would not be renewed. I am glad that my Honourable Friend the Minister is replying to the debate; but frankly, in the past three months, I have been appalled by the way in which his Department—the Department for the Home Office, or whatever it happens to be called presently—has batted me about from one area to another with the highly spurious argument that not one Department is responsible for that set-up.
“The Home Office Border and Immigration Agency, however, directly changed the rules of the game. In other words, when those workers entered the United Kingdom, not only were they accepted as capable of acting as senior care workers, but no one ever questioned their status.”
She also complained about being “bounced from one department to another” and pointed out that the Filipino workers were “English speaking, enormously warm in their approach and doing jobs that Britons do not want to do”.
David Taylor, MP for North-West Leicestershire, and several other MP’s, joined the debate in support. He said that he also had many constituents in the same position and condemned the “tardiness and uncertainty” of the BIA and the Home Office for not replying to letters:
“I wrote to the Minister, whom I greatly respect, on 4 July—not a single reply yet.”
Mrs Dunwoody then moved on to the new minimum salary the BIA has recently “imposed” commenting that “it had been made very clear that, unless the workers were paid that rate, they could not be employed”.
“Is the Home Office now in charge of wage negotiations for people employed in private care homes?” she asked the Minister.
She pointed out that Department of Health had sent her a letter confirming that “matters relating to pay and conditions of employment of staff employed by independent care home operators are for negotiation for employers and employees and/or their representatives”.
In a brief prepared reply Immigration Minister Liam Byrne defended his policy:
“Since August 13 when the Home Office introduced a concession, we have been able to renew many work permits – 80% of our applications were approved.”
But the Minister’s “80% approved” figure completely ignores the hundreds of people who have not even bothered to attempt to renew their permits in light of the knowledge that they would be refused if the employer was unwilling to pay £7.02 per hour.
Mr Byrne continued:
“The Home Office does not conjure its guidance out of the air. It simply reflects what Skills for Care and other sector skills councils tell us is the going rate for a particular post.”
He also challenged Southern Cross and other health sector employers to “pay the going rate to their employees.”
With Mrs Dunwoody demanding an undertaking and calling for Mr Byrne to tell us “what he’s going to do about it”, the debate ran out of time.
Mr Byrne is not off the hook. In a letter from her Assistant, Alex Phillips, I was assured that Mrs Dunwoody would “keep the pressure on and, along with other Members take the Minister’s offer up to meet privately.”
If you are an overseas Senior Carer what are you doing to help your self? Have you signed the Save Our Senior Carers on-line petition to the Prime Minister – http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/SaveCarers/ and have you forwarded the link to your friends?
Click here for more information on a rally for migrant workers in Trafalgar Square, London, on 03 Nov 2007.
Hundreds of you have done so, which has helped bring about this debate.
Finally, Mrs Dunwoody reminded us that:
“The quality of the life of a nation is judged by how it treats people who are most dependent upon the care of others. In this country, the care of our elderly should be not only one of our most important concerns, but one that we constantly monitor and assume to be fundamental to the quality of their lives.”.
If you have been refused a work permit visa or would like immigration advice and a free consultation please email me at: email@example.com
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Click here for a full transcript of the debate:
You can watch a video of the debate by clicking on the link to the Parliamentary Recording Unit’s details:
I will be speaking at the NCA Conference this Tuesday, 30 October.