Care agencies ‘must ensure recruits can speak English’

A Government advisor said carers should be able to speak English before being placed in vulnerable people’s homes

Care agencies should ensure that the staff they recruit to work in vulnerable people’s homes can speak English, a government adviser has said.

Dr Shereen Hussein (pictured) told the BBC that language barriers could lead to poor care or abuse.

Dr Hussein, a researcher at King’s College London and adviser to the Department of Health, said recent changes in immigration had altered the profile of foreign migrants who work in the UK as carers.

She told the BBC that people from outside the EU have long worked in the UK’s care sector and have had to prove their competence in English before getting a job, but that this had changed with new arrivals from EU countries.

Dr Hussein said: “This means new migrants can be vulnerable when they’re placed in people’s homes – and carers have reported instances of racism and discrimination that stem from communication problems.”

She added: “It would be really beneficial to have a standard interview process to establish English language proficiency, communication skills and softer skills of all care workers aiming to work in the sector.

“At the moment, vulnerable workers are placed in the homes of vulnerable adults with complex needs, and sometimes communication problems can result in bad treatment for both parties.”

Dr Hussein called for care agencies to be required to prove their staff can speak a level of English that is adequate for their job, rather than the responsibility falling on the workers themselves.

She said a standardised interview would help care agencies identify where training is needed before staff are deployed to help vulnerable people.

In some parts of the UK around half of care workers are thought to be foreign nationals, the BBC said.