Overseas skilled workers exploited at U.K. care home, reveals BBC investigation by Indian-origin journalist

Addison Court, a care home under Prestwick Care where the investigation was carried out.
| Photo Credit: BBC

An investigation by the BBC has revealed shocking details of the exploitation of overseas care workers at a care home in northeast England. Nurses and care workers from overseas, who constitute a large portion of the workforce at care homes, are eligible for skilled worker visas in the U.K. This means that they need to be sponsored by an employer to be able to work in the country. If they leave their jobs, they need to find another suitable post within 60 days or will have to return to their home country.

The BBC Panorama investigation, conducted by Indian-origin reporter Balakrishnan Balagopal, revealed rampant exploitation of such care workers, to the extent that their contracts prevented them from leaving. Mr. Balagopal took the job of care assistant at Addison Court in Crawcrook – one of 15 care homes in the north-east of England owned by Prestwick Care – and worked there from September to November. During his investigation, Mr. Balagopal found out that care workers are being charged thousands of pounds by an Indian recruitment agency and that nurses are locked into lengthy contracts with care homes, facing large financial penalties if they leave early.

Balakrishnan Balagopal.

Balakrishnan Balagopal.
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

Around 50 elderly people live in Addison Court with an average weekly fee of about £1,100. These are paid for either by the local authority, the U.K. National Health Service (NHS), the residents or their families.

The investigation also revealed low staffing at care homes, which according to health professionals, risks vulnerable residents.

Nearly one-third of Prestwick Care’s employees are overseas workers. According to the BBC investigation, a resident of Kerala who had arrived on a sponsored visa in 2018 was hit with legal action by the home, claiming that he owed the company more than £5,000. The man was also told that his contract stopped him from working for any competitor care home for six months. The legal action was eventually settled by his new employer.

Prestwick Care has denied any malpractice or systematic wrongdoings towards overseas care workers.

Earlier this month, the U.K. also announced changes to its skilled worker visa regulations, which will come into effect next spring. According to the new rules, overseas care workers will no longer be able to bring their partner or children with them to the U.K.

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