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Home Office Targets Care Home Sponsor Licences
From Caring UK June 2017 Edition
30th June 2017
The Home Office have placed an even greater focus on the importance of compliance of UK Care homes in a bid to eradicate poor management practices which have existed in the past. The increase in unannounced visits to the care homes follows on from Operation Magnify which highlighted a number of care homes that were not complying with the Home Office’s rules and regulations specifically relating to the employment of non-EEA skilled migrant staff.
The social care representative bodies such as Care England and others have claimed that the Home Office tougher action on care homes is not justified. However, despite the protest made by the care sector the Home Office has continued applying pressure on care providers.
One of the main pre-requisites for a care home to employ non-EEA skilled care workers in the UK is to obtain a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. Care homes are required by law to comply with certain obligations in order to maintain their Sponsor Licence. Recently, the Home office has placed greater emphasis on ensuring that Care homes are complying with the rules set out by them and the Sponsor Licensing Unit. In order to ensure that this is being done effectively, the Home Office have sanctioned regular compliance visits to care homes.
A care home that is found to be in breach of the rules and regulations may find their Sponsor Licence being suspended; or in a worst case scenario it may be revoked. The revocation of a sponsor licence would have a significant impact on the care home as well as the employment status of the migrant workers. When a licence is revoked, the employers can no longer continue to employ or recruit non-EEA staff. The current migrant staff has up to 60 days to either find new employment, or leave the UK unless the care operator challenges the decision through a Judicial Review at the High Court.
The decision to revoke the licence from a care home would mean that they would have to turn to Agency staff in order to fill the gap left by foreign sponsored workers who are no longer eligible to work for the business. This would have a considerable financial impact on the business, and in a worst case scenario, force the care home to cease trading.
What does this mean for the social care sector?
It is the sole responsibility of the care providers to ensure that the correct measures are taken and that procedures are followed carefully when recruiting non-EEA migrant workers. The onus is on the care provider to make sure the entire process, starting from the recruitment stage, tracking and monitoring of the migrants as well as HR procedures are followed in accordance with the Home Office Guidelines.
There is also a genuine concern that a Sponsor Licence revocation would have a considerable impact on the resident’s right to private life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It is feared that if a licence is revoked, the ensuing problems for the care home would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents. It is therefore of utmost importance that care homes are made aware of the rules and regulations set out by the Home Office so that the care providers may act in accordance with the law.
Another major concern is that this ongoing issue will have an impact on care providers and the services they offer. A decline in the quality of care for the residents will not only compromise the health and safety of the residents, which is the primary concern, but that it will also lead to complaints from disgruntled families who rightly want the best care for their loved ones.
It is imperative that all care providers comply with the rules and regulations of immigration compliance as stated by law. There is a strong need for the issue to be taken seriously, and more effort needs to be taken to warn care homes of the repercussions of not complying with these new regulations. Employers who fail to comply with the strict Home Office guidelines will be liable to face civil penalties of up to £20,000 per employee, and may also face up to two years imprisonment.
Kashif Majeed is a Director at Aston Brooke Solicitors who are specialists in the Health & Social Care sector. Please do not hesitate to contact him on 020 3475 4321 for any issues related to sponsor licence revocations or care homes.
This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of Caring UK Magazine and does not present a detailed statement of the Law and does not constitute legal advice. This is a summary only and legal advice should always be sought on an individual case basis.