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Japa: Nigerian Pastor Fingered In UK ‘Cash-for-care Jobs’ Probe

Japa: Nigerian Pastor Fingered In UK 'Cash-for-care Jobs Probe
Dr Rev Philip Oyewale of Pentecost Baptist Church in Liverpool has been accused of charging an undercover reporter £9,000 to arrange a job in just three days, with a ‘100 per cent’ success rate.

Gatekeepers News reports that Oyewale’s company, Charis Recruits, had been suspended from the Home Office migrant sponsorship scheme in February last year. This was because there were suspicions that the company was supplying sponsored workers as labour.

It was reported that Charis Recruits had sponsored a total of 376 migrants between July 2022 and February 2023. It was suspected that the company made over £1 million from this operation.

Daily Mail investigation found that unqualified migrants, majorly from Nigeria, Zimbabwe and India, are caring for vulnerable residents in the U.K due to Home Office loopholes.

Due to the urgent need to fill large vacancies in the elder care sector, there have been insufficient checks on the qualifications and language proficiency of the staff.

Consequently, untrained and overworked personnel, who may struggle with English, are sometimes left to provide care for the elderly. This situation has put a strain on the already struggling eldercare sector.

An investigation conducted by Daily Mail into the ‘cash for care jobs scandal’ found some outfits charge overseas applicants ‘work finder fees’ of up to £20,000 to help them get a visa allowing them to stay in the U.K.

A watchdog warned there had been ‘widespread abuse’ of the system since early 2022 after ministers relaxed immigration rules to plug mass job vacancies.

Vacancies in adult social care hit a record 164,000 in 2021/22, prompting the Government to lower the barrier for such staff to be allowed to work in the UK.

The change meant the total number of foreign workers permitted to come to Britain rocketed to a record high last year, figures revealed last week – driven by a 349 per cent rise in care worker visas to more than 89,000.

The largest numbers come from India, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Alongside the ‘unprecedented’ surge of overseas workers into the sector, the relaxation of rules also saw an ‘explosion’ in shady characters making a fortune, treating migrant care staff as ‘cash cows’ by making them pay often huge fees, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority said.

Campaigners called for the Home Office to urgently introduce more checks on foreign workers to stop their exploitation and protect those they care for.

Several whistleblowers told the Mail some staff are illegally charging for jobs at one social care company with 20 sites in northern England that provide supported living for people with learning difficulties for NHS and council referrals.

They described seeing migrants arrive with holdalls full of cash which were handed to staff at the company at meetings in car parks or areas in CCTV blackspots. They estimated more than 100 migrants had been brought in this way.

But when they arrive they usually have no qualifications for the required work and often very poor English, putting patients’ health at risk. In many cases, the migrants ‘disappear’ and are believed to end up trying to find work illegally on the UK black market.

One migrant described how he paid £6,000 cash for a Certificate of Sponsorship at a meeting at one of the company’s offices in the north-west of England, but never received sponsorship.

Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said she knew of extensive abuse of the system since visa rules were relaxed. “We’re seeing agencies sprouting up that are just bringing people in for the purpose of taking money off them,” she said.

“They’re not checking their skills or making sure they have the relevant training. In some cases, workers are sleeping 14 to a room and having to pay back money they hadn’t expected.

“We have to stop a practice where vulnerable people are looking after vulnerable people. It’s exploitation with terrible consequences for the social care industry and the people that we, as a society, are supposed to be caring for.”

She said the Home Office needed to strengthen English language requirements and spend more time on follow-up visits to homes using foreign care workers.

Martin Plimmer, lead investigator at the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, said more than 100,000 sponsorship visas had been issued in the two years since rules were relaxed.

“This country has never recruited so many people in such a short space of time in one industry,” he said.

“As an authority, we’ve gone from virtually never having investigated a case in the care sector to getting a case of suspected exploitation every day. We’re inundated.

“Migrants are routinely being illegally charged £10,000 to £20,000 ‘work finder’ fees, he said.

It means they often arrive in debt having sold everything or borrowed from gangs to pay for the job, so cannot afford to report mistreatment to UK authorities for fear of being sacked.

In a ‘vicious circle’, the exploitative employers are also better placed to bid for lucrative social care contracts from local authorities because their low wage bills mean they can undercut rivals who treat workers properly, Mr Plimmer added.

“Some care homes are being run at a very low cost with a very high income. It’s all about making money, and some people are making substantial amounts of money,’ he said.

Former Tory health minister Neil O’Brien said: “This Daily Mail investigation highlights the absurdity of this sponsorship scheme and whole immigration system.

“This scheme is not fit for purpose. This raises massive questions for the Home Office and I am sure they will want to take rapid and decisive action on this.’

A Home Office spokesman said: “We strongly condemn offering Health and Care worker visa holders employment under false pretences and do not tolerate illegal activity in the labour market.

“We’ve already taken action to revoke the licence of sponsors engaged in such activity.

“We are committed to stamping out exploitation of those working in the care sector and have announced providers in England will only be able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission.”

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