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Call to relax terms for foreign healthcare workers

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AN online petition urging the government to allow foreign healthcare workers more time to find a job after their sponsors fail them has attracted hundreds of signatures within days.

Under tougher rules that came into effect earlier this month, care providers in England acting as sponsors for migrants are required to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the industry regulator for health and social care, a move the government said will tackle abuse within the sector.

However, the consequence of this crackdown is that many innocent workers from countries such as India find themselves abandoned when a previously legitimate sponsor loses their licence, with migrants having only 60 days to find alternative employment in the sector.

“Sixty days is a very short notice for a family to arrange departure as it could unsettle their children’s schooling, lead to loss of rent or deposit, furnishing costs, air ticket and relocation costs,” reads the petition launched by UK-based professional Balakrishnan Balagopal.

“Several healthcare workers who arrived in UK are left without jobs as their sponsors are unable to provide them with one or that there wasn’t a job available for them when they arrived. Some firms lose their licence to sponsor due to their own mistakes…The request is to extend jobless health workers’ stay in the UK for one more year for them to secure another job,” it adds.

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The petition, launched on the UK Parliament website last weekend, is intended to shed light on a pressing issue and after 10,000 signatures will require a response from the government.

According to Balagopal, hundreds of healthcare workers who arrived in the UK to meet shortages in the social care sector since 2022 are stuck in a situation not of their own making. Many firms which promised them jobs lost their licence to sponsor due to errors beyond the workers’ control and others found that the promised job never materialised.

Earlier this month, the Home Office said it has evidence that care workers have been offered visas under false pretences, travelling thousands of miles for jobs that simply don’t exist or to be paid far below the minimum wage required for their work and exploiting them. It sought to crackdown on the abuse of the system, including a ban on international care workers bringing their dependent family members when migrating to the UK.

“Care workers make an incredible contribution to our society, taking care of our loved ones in times of need. But we cannot justify inaction in the face of clear abuse, manipulation of our immigration system and unsustainable migration numbers. It is neither right nor fair to allow this unacceptable situation to continue,” said Home Secretary James Cleverly.

With the letters starting to go out to those affected in recent weeks, the fallout of the crackdown is expected to affect hundreds of workers already in the country and left in the lurch due to no fault of their own.

According to official statistics from the past year, an estimated 140,000 visas were issued to overseas workers to come to the UK to meet staff shortages in the health and care industry and 39,000 of these went to Indians. (PTI)

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