Page last updated at 07:13 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 08:13 UK

New rules 'risk carers shortage'

Carer and elderly person's hands
The care home sector has recruited from abroad to fill jobs

Many foreign staff working in care homes in Wales are facing uncertainty because of new work permit guidance, a BBC Wales investigation has found.

Some are leaving Wales to work in English care homes where wages are higher ahead of the introduction of new immigration rules.

Care Forum Wales told Eye on Wales this was creating a shortage of workers.

The Border Agency said it would make transitional arrangements to minimise the impact of the new system.

Eduardo Alberto, 30, is one of the estimated 105,000 carers from overseas working in Britain.

He came from the Philippines three years ago and has worked at a number of care homes across the region after making his home in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

But in March his original work permit expired and, under new Home Office guidance, which paves the way for a points-based system where higher wages and skills will earn more points towards staying the UK, he had to find a job paying an hourly rate of 7.02.

Home Office figures suggest that just a third of care homes in Wales pay senior care workers such a rate.

Since March, Mr Alberto has been unable to work and was considering returning home.

There are very many people still very concerned - the ones that have come to help us, not the other way round
Mario Kreft, chief executive, Care Forum Wales

He said: "What I've been through the last two months - it's been hell for me. I don't have a job; I don't have money; I don't have a house.

"But now I'm so happy I've found a new job in East Sussex. After I've received my Criminal Record Bureau checks I'm going to transfer there and start a new life and a new job."

Filipina Gigi Nicolas is also taking her family - including her Wales-born baby - out of the country. She is moving to Lincolnshire.

She told the programme: "It's a shame. We are settled here in Wales. I couldn't find a job paying 7.02 an hour in Rhyl, they said they couldn't afford it. That's why we are going to Lincolnshire - for a new life again."

'Vulnerable people'

Mario Kreft, chief executive of the industry body Care Forum Wales and the owner of a number of homes in north east Wales, said he was concerned.

He said: "There are parts of the UK where fee levels are higher and people are naturally attracted there.

"The cost of care in somewhere like Tunbridge Wells or Stratford on Avon - it's not the same as Caerphilly or Gwynedd.

"In Wales we have a largely state-funded system which is largely provided by the independent sector. We need to engage these people to make sure we can provide the services - not just now but moving forward.

"Because if we can't, the people that will be picking up the tab will be the vulnerable people in Wales.

"There are very many people still very concerned. That's unfortunate because they're the ones that have come to help us - not the other way round."

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said it had a legal obligation to ensure that work permit criteria were applied correctly, and to acted where it learnt work permits had been considered incorrectly.

It also told the programme it recognised that the new points-based system for work permits could have an impact on existing work permit holders and that it would put in place transitional arrangements to minimise that impact.

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