Wednesday 22 December 2021 9:44 PM UTC
By A Staff Reporter
Abergele (North Wales) Dec 22: A Keralite couple, both registered nurses, who ran a care recruitment agency and supplied students as care workers to care homes, were arrested for making the workers live in unsanitary conditions, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) reported.
The suspects, reported as 31-year-old British-Indian man and 29-year-old woman, were taken into custody after a warrant was executed at their home address in Abergele on the morning of Thursday December 16.
The suspects, reported to be from Kochi in Kerala, were interviewed by the GLAA on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, before being released under investigation.
The issue was brought to light by professionals working within care homes in North Wales when they raised the alarm about the quality of care that the staff supplied by the agency were providing to residents.
Information supplied to the Modern Slavery Helpline and shared with the GLAA and police said that the workers were turning up tired and “smelling”. The workers were said to be always hungry and were even spotted eating leftovers from meals given to the care home residents.
Investigations have indicated that 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 have 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.
Two addresses in the Colwyn Bay area were searched by the GLAA on 16th December 2021, 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, with one of the addresses having a fire hazard.
The potential victims were all transported to a nearby reception centre to receive specialist support and the opportunity to enter the government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
They have since decided to return to their homes but with safeguarding packages put in place, consisting of food parcels being delivered to them and enhanced security being provided at their addresses, which have also been red-flagged to North Wales Police.
A further five potential victims, also Indian nationals on student visas, were identified within the community and are receiving the same support.
All the care homes that have used workers supplied by the agency have been notified, as have the families of the residents living in the six facilities.
The GLAA has been working with Care Inspectorate Wales, and the relevant local authorities in relation to this. The local authorities are providing support to the care homes and individuals affected.
GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Martin Plimmer said: “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.
“We would encourage members of the public to remain vigilant and to be aware of the signs of exploitation in this sector. Most importantly, we would urge you to report your concerns to us. Your information really counts and allows us to conduct operations such as this one.”
If you believe that someone has been exploited for their labour, call the GLAA’s intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
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