Joint Statement: Jabeer Butt, Race Equality Foundation Chief Executive, and Karolina Gerlich, CEO, of The Care Workers’ Charity, respond to the CQC State of Care report
The Care Workers’ Charity and the Race Equality Foundation issue a joint statement in response to the State of Care report published by the Care Quality Commission. The report reveals a concerning increase in referrals related to modern slavery, labour exploitation, and international visa issues, with over four times the number compared to the previous year. Regrettably, the Care Workers’ Charity has also observed this in a growing number of applications for our crisis grant.
The severe workforce shortage in the UK’s social care sector is no secret. Care work has a long history of being undervalued and underpaid. The concerns of overworked, exhausted, and stressed staff, often leading to illness or job departures, are sadly not new. The issues the report raises on workforce wellbeing are the same as those discussed during The Care Workers’ Charity’s Professional Care Workers Week. Care workers shared their experiences of managing multiple clients, coping with the emotional toll of rushed visits, some experiencing inadequate sick pay, and enduring the toll on mental health due to long hours and stressful working conditions. Low pay and poor working conditions are significant deterrents to attracting and retaining talent in the sector.
There is an increasing reliance on international recruitment to address the workforce shortage. We celebrate the valuable learning opportunities that stem from the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences within the care workforce. As the report recognises, many adult social care services have reported that recruiting staff from overseas has enhanced the diversity and skills of their teams and helped to address staffing challenges.
But this is not a silver bullet, and it is deeply concerning that the government’s facilitated entry of overseas social care staff to mitigate the workforce shortage has given rise to a troubling trend of unethical international recruitment practices. For employers, recruiting from overseas is complex and time-consuming, exacerbating issues like high staff turnover, identifying legitimate employment agencies, navigating administrative procedures, and supporting new recruits. This comes when the workforce is already overstretched, making it easier to miss warning signs of exploitation.
While there are well-intentioned employers in the care sector, others are unaware that workers may have paid hefty fees to agencies and continue to be exploited through excessive accommodation and other charges.
This follows on from the EHRC Inquiry that identified practices that should worry everyone who cares about social care. Their report concluded that there is a ‘two-tier’ workforce with ethnic minority staff more likely to be in ‘lower-paid, commissioned-out and outsourced roles’. It further noted that for some groups of social care staff, particularly homecare workers, this was combined with a lack of knowledge of employment rights, manifested in employers’ failure to observe minimum employment rights.
Addressing these systemic challenges is essential for the well-being of care workers and the individuals they support. As a public sector body, CQC (Care Quality Commission) must align its work with the Human Rights Act (1998), including the right to be free from slavery and forced labour and the duty to report criminal activity. It is critically important to ensure ethical recruitment practices. We must safeguard the rights and well-being of all care sector stakeholders by acknowledging their contributions, providing ongoing training, ensuring fair compensation, and having systems that allow people to raise concerns in a safe and supportive environment.
About The Care Workers’ Charity: The Care Workers’ Charity (CWC) has provided over £5.5 million in crisis grants since 2020. It offers mental well-being support to care workers, provides accredited Mental Health First Aid training and advocates for policy changes to improve lives and working conditions in the UK. To learn more about its mission and initiatives, visit www.thecareworkerscharity.org.uk.
About Race Equality Foundation: The Race Equality Foundation tackles racial inequality across public services by:
Exploring what is known about discrimination and disadvantage
Developing evidenced-based better practice to promote equality
Disseminating better practice through educational activities, conferences, written material and websites
Working with national and local partners from the community, voluntary, statutory and social enterprise sectors