The Fed: Recruiting overseas for social care providers in England

The Fed is the leading social care charity for the Greater Manchester Jewish community providing a range of care including residential, nursing, discharge to assess and end of life.  

Background and context

The Fed is the leading social care charity for the Greater Manchester Jewish community providing a range of care including residential, nursing, discharge to assess and end of life.  We spoke to Karen Johnson, Clinical Director at the Fed about her experiences of recruiting from overseas - what made her consider it as an option, what she did, how’s she’s found it and what it cost.

In 2019, Karen found herself really frustrated after spending thirty thousand pounds to recruit two nurses from local agencies who did not stay long. Karen told us that at the time, agencies were giving “golden handshakes” to encourage people to join them and that this resulted in high turnover on the ground for providers.  She started to talk to colleagues to help her to think about what she could do differently and a colleague suggested she try recruiting from overseas.

The Process

Karen engaged the services of a firm of solicitors who were recommended by the Care Homes Association and a recruitment agency who had been recommended to her. Karen found utilising professional support worked really well for The Fed.  “The solicitor took care of all the paperwork”, says Karen.  He helped us secure our licence and the Certificates of Sponsorship(CoS).  We started with 12 CoS in the first instance.  “The agency provided us with CVs and we interviewed applicants by zoom” Karen told us. It took around eight weeks from start to finish and cost twelve thousand pounds per nurse recruited which compares favourably to using agency staff. The recruitment agency sourced candidates and made arrangements for them to sit their OSCE exams. Karen had a range of applicants, some applying directly from overseas, some based in Ireland and others who were already in the UK and looking to move employer. Karen found the whole process very straightforward and continues to recruit from overseas.  In fact, she went as far as to say she finds it easier than recruiting locally.  Karen’s now expanded her focus to include senior care staff.

Duty of care

Karen was keen to emphasise that whilst utilising the support of a solicitor and recruitment agency made the front end of the process much more straightforward, it does not diminish the duty of care responsibilities on The Fed as the employer.  “To make this a positive experience it’s really important to look after people and provide lots of hands-on support”, said Karen, “we’ve built this into the well-being offer of our HR staff”.  Some example of what Karen and her team have put in place include:

  • A local guide covering all sorts of day to day living information such as transport, what things cost, GPs, local shops etc.
  • A whatsapp group to help staff build relationships and to help the team at The Fed to check in
  • A buddying scheme where staff take care of each other
  • Meet and greet at the airport

Karen talked about the importance of helping people to find accommodation.  Initially The Fed utilised a decommissioned area in one of their buildings and converted it into 3 flats where international recruits could stay short term whilst they secured longer term accommodation. 

In recent months The Fed have utilised vacant flats in their supported living area to support with accommodation for the first month whilst the candidate sources rental accommodation.

It strikes me listening to Karen that once your international recruits are here, it’s just like any other staff in many respects.  Take care of them, ensure they have the right basics in place like somewhere to live and a support network, help them to feel a valued part of the organisation and you’ll reap the rewards of happy committed staff.