Solving Two Crises at Once for Refugees and the Social Care Sector

The CareTech Foundation has partnered with Breaking Barriers, intending to create a bespoke recruitment pathway for refugees into the social care sector and to influence the wider health and social care sector to support refugees in employment.

Since pandemic restrictions have eased, some trends in the health and care sector have re-emerged. According to Skills for Care, vacancy rates in England are at 8.2%, which is even higher than their pre-pandemic levels, and 105,000 vacancies are being advertised on average each day. Turnover is also high, at 34.4%.

Many are turning to overseas labour to try to fill these gaps, but a ground-breaking partnership between the Foundation and Breaking Barriers is paving a new way.

Breaking Barriers is a specialist charity that supports refugees into meaningful employment with advice, experience and education. The charity believes in the power of responsible business and forge innovative partnerships so that businesses can support refugees too.

Breaking Barriers has found that the health and social care sector ranks as one of the top sectors in which their clients aspire to work. There is clearly high demand and desire for people of refugee background to work in this sector, yet refugees can find it challenging to secure employment.

There is no national strategy or policy in place to support refugees to get into work or education. In 2019, there were nearly 375,000 refugees in the UK, each with their own unique story, background, work experience and skills. This number is likely to have significantly increased as a result of the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

People from a refugee background speak a myriad of languages, a lot speak excellent English, and of the refugees that Breaking Barriers support 39% have completed higher education and nearly 60% have four years plus employment experience. However, applications for asylum can take months or years to process during which time most people are not allowed to work. This leads to gaps on CVs and a lack of UK work experience.

Other barriers for refugees include English language skills, adjusting to a new way of applying and interviewing for jobs, understanding cultural differences in the workplace and a fear of stigma from colleagues.

Businesses face challenges too. Research by Breaking Barriers and their partner Grant Thornton UK LLP showed that UK businesses are keen to get behind refugees but lack confidence when hiring and supporting them. 62% of the 601 mid-sized businesses surveyed are open to the idea of hiring refugees, just over half have already done so and 51% are saying they are likely to hire in the next 12 months.

But many also say that they lack confidence, with 40% saying they need additional support to recruit refugees. Employers’ main concerns regarding refugee recruitment are cultural barriers, how to access the refugee talent pool, and how to manage the legal right to work for refugees.

To overcome these challenges, Breaking Barriers and the Foundation have developed a long-term partnership. Activities will include a bespoke recruitment pathway to support refugee clients into employment with social care providers, including CareTech PLC, a roundtable with stakeholders from across the care sector, a sector-specific best practice guide to engage the care sector and encourage them to take action for refugees, and funding for Breaking Barriers’ employment programmes. Initially piloted in London, the programme will be scaled up nationally.

The Foundation will be openly sharing everything they learn through the partnership to support and inspire other businesses within the social care sector to unlock the potential of refugees.

The partnership has been designed to be long-term and holistic and will support recruitment and retention for frontline jobs, as well as other services such as finance, medicine, HR, logistics, law and marketing. With sites across the UK, the aim is to scale this work up across the sector.

Caretech CEO, Jonathan Freeman MBE, says: “We are delighted to be partnering with Breaking Barriers to work together to create a powerful new employment pathway for refugees into the social care sector. We know that refugees often have the skills and values that would make them perfect for roles in social care, a sector with significant levels of vacancies. So, we very much see this partnership as a win-win for all involved, making sound business sense and delivering a powerful social impact.”

Matt Powell, CEO of Breaking Barriers says: “Partnerships with businesses are integral to our impact at Breaking Barriers, and this is a win-win opportunity. Refugees will be able to bring their skills to many different roles in with social care providers, and the health and care sector will be able to fill vacancies and reduce turnover with diverse talent. Together with the Foundation, we look forward to unlocking the potential of refugees across the UK on a grand scale.”

Fiona Potter, Group Human Resources Director (Interim) of CareTech PLC, says: “CareTech Group are delighted to be working with Breaking Barriers to offer employment opportunities to their clients. Our Resourcing team have had the opportunity of presenting CareTech PLC and interviews have taken place, and we are very pleased to advise that two job offers have been made so far. The partnership continues and we hope that more interviews and job offers will follow”.

 

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