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The first ms investigation in the care sector

15th April 2024 | Modern slavery

The Clewer Initiative

Just over two years ago, a husband and wife were arrested under suspicion of exploiting vulnerable students and supplying them to six care homes in North Wales.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) investigation brought the issue of modern slavery in the care sector to the fore and 74 further victims have since been identified. This was the first investigation into the care sector but it is now a significant priority area for the GLAA.

The Clewer Initiative spoke to Martin Plimmer, National Investigation Lead (North) for GLAA to find out more.

“In December 2021, two addresses in the Colwyn Bay area were searched by the GLAA, and nine Indian students were identified as potential victims of modern slavery and labour abuse. GLAA officers found the workers sleeping on mattresses on the floor in cramped, cold and unsanitary conditions. A further five potential victims, also Indian nationals on student visas, were also identified within the community and signposted to support. The suspects, both registered nurses, ran a recruitment agency.

“Professionals working within care homes in North Wales raised the alarm about the quality of care that the staff supplied by the agency were providing to residents. They shared that the workers turning up tired and “smelling” and were always hungry. They were even spotted eating leftovers from meals given to the care home residents.

“Investigations indicated they all worked more than the 20 hours per week allowed for students studying in the UK, and that their wages were controlled by their alleged exploiters.

“Reports also suggested that the potential victims were transported to and from work each day, with the suspects dropping them off and collecting them close to the care homes, but never from directly outside them.”

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National Investigation Lead, Martin Plimmer concludes: “There is a well-publicised shortage of workers within the care industry which has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. This presents real risks as opportunists and unscrupulous employers may look to fill this void by exploiting vulnerable workers.

“We believe that the suspects have recruited the potential victims from areas and regions of India that they themselves are familiar with. They appear to have gathered people who aren’t qualified, aren’t suitable for the work they are being asked to carry out, and who have been made to work excessive hours, especially so if they are here on student visas.”

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If you live or work or run a care home or visit a relative or friend in a care home, it is important to know potential signs of exploitation. While it is a demanding sector to work in and many employees may be tired and juggling lots of demands, there are some indicators that should not be tolerated. If you see the following signs, please contact the GLAA or Modern Slavery Helpline. They will be able to investigate further and identify whether workers are being exploited.

  • Working continually without lunch breaks or days off
  • Being paid under the minimum wage or not at all
  • Not being paid for travel between appointments
  • Walking long distances between appointments
  • Poor accommodation
  • Always tired
  • Looking destitute

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