Saturday, May 28, 2022
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This cynical plan to staff care homes with asylum seekers is a scandal

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WHAT has become of our society that we care so little for old and vulnerable people that we don’t care just who looks after us when we find ourselves needing help from others to eat and drink, dress, wash or go to the toilet?  Anybody will do, provided they have arms and feet and a back.  No training is needed, and no vocation to care, either. 

On Friday the Telegraph reported: ‘Asylum seekers who have waited more than a year for a decision can now work to help ease the care home recruitment crisis under a rule change sanctioned by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.’ The Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said this would not only have an economic benefit but there was also evidence it had a ‘large positive impact’ on asylum seekers’ long-term job prospects if their applications were successful, and helped them integrate better into British society. 

Importantly, this article states: ‘Asylum seekers do not require visas as they are already in the UK and, unlike other shortage occupations like butchers, welders and laboratory technicians, care workers do not require specialist training.’

So, if you are a butcher, a welder or a lab technician you need to be trained to handle the dead animal, the piece of metal or the test tube. If you are dealing with the human body, no special training is required (other than tick-box requirements such as manual handling, fire safety, infection control and, of course, safeguarding, inclusion and diversity).

Florence Nightingale would have been horrified. She wrote: ‘Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.’  

Granted, Priti Patel needs to do something to mitigate the asylum crisis she has been unable to resolve, but why should care homes be targeted? Why is there no outcry that untrained asylum seekers be given such jobs when they may be completely unsuitable? It is an abuse of the vulnerable old. It is also an abuse of asylum seekers.

The government says it recognises the major problem of social care, but it is not just a matter of money to pay carers (although no doubt that is a problem): it is about the values society places on care and the moral character of people who choose to care for others, as Nightingale strongly believed. It is arguable that because as a society we have rejected those traditional Nightingale values of care that our old and vulnerable are left to suffer and die not as human beings but as objects. 

This is certainly shown by a study in the British Medical Journal published December, which found that neglect was one of the biggest killers in care homes during the pandemic. It said: ‘The pandemic has disproportionately affected people living in care homes, who accounted for an estimated 30 per cent of all deaths from Covid-19 across 25 countries despite making up only 1 per cent of the world’s population, a report has estimated.’

The report says that ‘the pandemic had exacerbated long-running problems in the care sector, such as chronic underfunding, poor structural organisation, staff undertraining, underskilling and underequipping, and a lack of humanity in dealing with the most vulnerable members of society.’

It continues: ‘Neglect, thirst, and hunger were – and possibly still are – the biggest killers.’

So why on earth does this uncaring and out of touch government think it is acceptable for asylum seekers to be care givers for these most vulnerable people, with little training and possibly very mixed motives in doing this job? Why is there no protest from political opponents, professional organisations, trades unions or the mainstream media? To me it is a scandal.

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Ann Bradshaw
Ann Bradshaw
Dr Ann Bradshaw is a recently retired SRN and senior lecturer in adult nursing at Oxford Brookes University. She is the author of The Nurse Apprentice 1860-1977and The Project 2000 Nurse

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