International Social Care
Shereen Hussein
Jill Manthorpe
Martin Stevens
People and places
in an
exchangeable time
Policy Research Programme:
Workforce Initiative
The Research
Quantitative analysis of existing data
National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC)
General Social Care Council (GSCC) register of social workers
National perspectives
(July 2007 - July 2009)
Recruitment agencies
Key stakeholders
Local insights (6 local authority case study
sites, including independent sector)
Employers/human resource managers
International workers and their colleagues
Refugees and asylum seekers
People using services and carers
Progress so far
Literature Review completed
Interviews with 20 recruitment agencies
Interviews with 15 stakeholders (policy,
regulatory and carer’s organisations)
Secondary data analysis of NMDS-SC
Obtained access to 6 sites - fieldwork in
Early findings
Based on:
Literature review
Recruitment agencies’ interviews
Stakeholders’ interviews
Secondary data analysis of NMDS-SC
Perceived advantages of
recruiting international workers
Addressing workforce shortfalls:
Demographic changes and high demand
Staff shortages
Attributes of workers
Status, pay, unclear career path, stress
Hard workers; highly motivated; appreciate their
jobs (and the pay)
Different perspectives
Bring something new
International learning
Knowledge of service users’ needs from similar
Perhaps another advantage of
international workers…
“...are less likely to quibble and will
accept worse conditions than
established citizens; getting on with the
job and not complaining too much.”
(Refugee organisation director)
Perspectives from Agencies
‘We want hard working people and people
coming in from the Eastern bloc are more
hard working, or can be, than some of the
people who are already existing in the
market here. Those people have become
complacent and often want to use the
system for their own benefits rather than for
the benefits of the clients – the workers are
not so reliable as the people who are coming
into the country and are not used to the
social system’.
Difficulties in employing
international workers
Recruitment process
Evidencing CRB and Police checks
Obtaining Visas
Retrieving references
After placement
Qualifications’ recognition uncertain and lengthy
Adequacies of induction and training
Problematic nature of work
Requirements for personal and cultural sensitivity
Different concepts of ‘care’
Language and communication issues
Agencies’ Perspectives
‘ Process of employing from overseas can be off
putting… Government should make overseas
employment procedures more streamlined – visa
and sponsorship requirements are burdensome.’
‘They [social workers from US] do a lot more
counselling and actively working to keep families
together. In the UK it’s all assessment,
assessment, assessment. And again, some of the
social workers from Africa and India are more
involved with social development at home and
that’s brilliant in those circumstances’.
Language and cultural issues
‘We have turned quite a large number [of
Polish workers] away. We’ve had quite a
few applications but because of the
language problem we’ve had to turn
people away. We’ve said, ‘when your
English improves come back to us, but
your standard of English isn’t adequate at
the moment’. Managing director, 020
Responses to international
workers vary
‘There are racial trends in employability – general
trends … Nigerian care assistants have problems with
literacy – they [employers] do know this – we
challenge this …’
‘The majority of [unqualified] workers are probably
Afro-Caribbean. And that’s a bit out of balance …. So
again, if we can get people from Poland and other
countries that are obviously white nationals, then
that would be great to balance up the care ratios and
the diversity.’
‘Another agency that I worked for had some Somalis
and their religion said they had to do certain things
at certain times of the day and that is a problem.’
International social workers –
the professionals
When recruiting directly from abroad:
Local authorities target countries where social work
education is compatible with the UK
Australia; New Zealand; South Africa
More recently from the US and Canada
Social workers tend to come for a specific
period of time
Specific contract
Gap year – extended vacation
International direct care workers
(care assistants, home care etc)
Often recruited from Migrants already in UK
A recent influx from Eastern Europe
More from ‘Other White’ ethnicities
Highly mobile
In their twenties
Stepping stone until qualifications recognised or English
Less family ties; willing to move geographically
Sometimes over qualified (on paper) for the jobs eg
NMDS data and workers who
had their previous job ‘abroad’
Larger proportion of males than average
A recent influx of workers from Eastern Europe
Younger on average
White (other) more likely to be care workers while
Asians tend to be senior care workers
May reflect those with non equivalent ‘nursing’ qualifications
from the Philippines and other Asian countries
On average more qualified than other workers (78%
with at least NVQ3 vs. 51%)
Most of them work as care or senior care workers
Perceived motivations of
international workers
Vary by type of work and reason for joining
the UK workforce
Some arrive at an early stage in their
careers, maybe temporary to gain
Some may be older with families →
resettlement may become a reality?
From A8 to obtain better work, may be a
more mobile group?
Agency work suits
International workers
Flexibility and Variety: opportunity to
‘try something new’.
Easier to obtain temporary work:
‘…if they [overseas workers] are very new
to the country potentially working for an
agency would be their first path of
Possible Implications 1
Employers & education
 Fine tuning induction and training – use of government
 Qualification recognition & upskilling, ‘career’ models and
 Access to Social Work degree & marketing (deliberate
 Relevance of post qualifications (PQs) and continuous
professional development to those without UK qualification
 Assisting managers and supervisors to get the most from
their staff
Possible implications 2
Service users and carers
 How to respond to cultural and language differences?
 Influence over stability of care staff?
 Working with colleagues who have different frames of
reference professionally and in practice
Workforce planning
 Retention and investment judgments over short and
long term
 Qualification recognition or upskilling.
International workers
 Career path
 Possible discrimination and rights
Contacts and References
Further information
Shereen Hussein:;
tel: 020 7848 1669
Hussein S. Manthorpe J and Stevens M (2008)
International social care workers: Initial outcomes,
workforce experiences and future expectations;
Phase I Interim report to the DH, Social Care
Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London.
Hussein S. Manthorpe J and Stevens M. (advance
access) People in places: a qualitative exploration of
recruitment agencies’ perspectives on the
employment of international social workers in the
UK. British Journal of Social Work 2008, doi:

International Social Care Workers