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Agencies must ensure carers can speak English

Care agencies should ensure that carers they recruit can speak English before placing them in vulnerable people’s homes, a government adviser has said. 

Dr Shereen Hussein, of King's College London's Social Care Workforce Research Unit and a scientific adviser to the Department of Health, added that poor language skills could lead to bad care and abuse. 

She told BBC Radio 5 live: “Migrants from outside the European Union have a long history of working in the UK’s care sector, and have always had to prove their efficiency in the English language before securing jobs in the industry, but this is not the case with new arrivals from EU countries. 

“This means new migrants can be vulnerable when they're placed in people's homes – and carers have reported instances of racism and discrimination that stem from communication problems.” 

The scientific adviser added that it would beneficial if care agencies, contracted by local authorities to supply home care to elderly and vulnerable adults, had a standard interview process to establish English language proficiency, communication skills and softer skills of all care workers aiming to work in the sector. 

Dr Hussein added that the interview would not be a deterrent for migrant workers, but would mean care agencies identify areas where induction and training is needed before they go to people's own homes and provide care. 

Last year, the Department of Health announced that a new ‘care certificate’ would come into operation in England from March 2015 in an attempt to drive up standards in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust scandal. 

The care certificate will give employers and patients proof that healthcare assistants and social care support workers have been trained to a specific set of standards and have the skills, knowledge and behaviours to ensure that they can provide high-quality care and support. 

Care minister Norman Lamb said it was “essential that we drive up standards”. He added: “There's lots of great care out there but there are too many cases of care falling down.” 

He also confirmed that the responsibility for the certificate would rest with employers. 

Since 2011 councils in England have been hit by more than £2bn in budget cuts for adult social care. Looking at the language barrier for recruiting carers, Colin Angel, of the UK Home Care Association, which represents the interests of care agencies, stated that Dr Hussein has identified an issue at a time when public spending on social care is extremely constrained and with the low rates that local authorities are currently paying for home care it's extremely difficult for agencies to increase the amount of paid training. 

However, the Local Government Association is highlighting programmes to help older and vulnerable people live more independent lives for longer in the community. 

Currently, councils operate or commission 120 local Shared Lives schemes which match disabled, vulnerable and older people with Shared Lives carers in their community who provide personal care and share their family and community life. There are currently over 6,700 Shared Lives carers providing care in their homes for 9,600 adults. 

The schemes are designed to improve the quality of life for people that need care by preventing them having to go into residential homes when there could be a more suitable option.  The level of care can vary from providing day and overnight support to having a regular visitor. 

Additionally, recent studies have shown that Shared Lives could provide savings of up to £147.5m if all areas worked as well as the best performing schemes in the country by reducing reliance on residential or nursing care. 

Cllr Katie Hall, chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Many of us will have been through times when we have had to consider what care is available for elderly parents or family and friends that need support.  

“More expensive care does not necessarily mean better care – we are all different people and it is about what suits each person best.  For some it might be a residential home, but for others, being matched with a Shared Lives carer and receiving care in their home can help people to stay healthy and happy and more in touch with the community.” 

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