Here you’ll find a selection of news and stories reflecting the activities and events happening within SJOG.

Care Work Hit By Immigration Changes

Article reproduced by kind permission of Ellen Teague and The Tablet:

The majority of vacant positions in care work are classed as low-skill - and therefore will not be open to many migrants.

“There needs to be a new political and financial settlement for care homes and domiciliary care which recognises the commitment and vocation of carers," according to Philip McCarthy, Director of the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN). “The pandemic has shown just how much we rely on people to do this essential, but often unsung, work,” he told The Tablet this week, “and over the last months care workers have risked their own health and that of their families”. His hope is, "that the Government and employers will invest in the skills of care workers so that we can build a care system to be proud of.” 

A new healthcare visa was announced by the government on 13 July, to be granted to NHS workers but not to social care workers. It will be within a new points-based immigration system which comes into force from 1 January next year when freedom of movement with the EU ends. The new system, says Home Secretary Priti Patel, will allow the UK to "attract the best and brightest from around the world". Frontline care home workers and contractors are excluded, and a minimum salary threshold means that many cleaners, porters and support staff will not qualify. People overseas will not be eligible to apply for a visa to undertake so-called ‘low-skilled’ work, including in social care settings. 

Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Salford, has highlighted the situation of existing staff already here on low wages, such as a refugee who wants to bring their family over to join them under the visa scheme. “Currently there is a minimum income requirement of £18,600 plus £3,800 for the first child and then £2,400 for the next child” said Mr Wiggin; “so if you want to bring your two children in addition to your wife you need an extra £6,200, giving you a total income of £24,800”. He pointed out that, “the current government minimum income requirement would effectively prevent a family reunion taking place for low paid workers”. 

Although residential care providers currently rely greatly on EU nationals to fill vacancies, the government feels that immigration is not the answer to the challenges in the social care sector. The majority of vacant positions will not be filled from immigration as these workers are not classed as skilled - and they're not eligible for the rebranded NHS and care workers fast track visa. Care workers won't be able to apply for a care-specific visa.

Paul Bott, chief executive of SJOG Hospitaller Services, a member of CSAN whose work includes residential care homes, told The Tablet this week he too would like more recognition of care workers of all nationalities. His organisation works in 35 communities across England, and employs 500 people, 63 of whom are non-UK nationals. “Whilst that’s just over 10%,” he said, “these colleagues are primarily focussed in London and the south-east, in our homeless service in Euston and our services that support people who have been trafficked or subject to modern slavery”. He told The Tablet that the diversity of languages spoken by staff is valued as many clients come from Eastern Europe and other regions prone to human trafficking. “We have some experienced people with specialist knowledge that can’t be replaced quickly or easily,” he reported, “and it is clear that for a period of time the level of knowledge and skills in key services will be less than it is now.” Training will be a priority.

The UK government is encouraging employers to invest in workers from within the UK, and Mr Bott reported that “At this point, we are not expecting there to be any workforce recruitment issues for us because of the recession we are facing, where we’ll see more people becoming unemployed”. He told The Tablet that the pool of potential workers for social care projects is likely to be greater post-Covid, reflecting that, “It’s sad that we need to wait for the economy to struggle before we can fully staff though.”


Andrew enjoys a taste of his outreach service again

In recent months, due to the restrictions put in place to tackle COVID-19, many of the people we support have had to stop outreach services and actiivities which were both enjoyable and part of their weekly routine. Andrew from Brentwood, our supported living service in Leyburn found himself unable to go to Chopsticks, an outreach service dedicated to giving people with disabilities opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.  He really missed the interaction opportunities the service provides.

Recently however, Andrew was overjoyed by a visit from the Chopsticks’ team.  He was delighted to see them and he also received some craft supplies for activities to do at home.  

Andrew will hopefully be back at Chopsticks soon enough, however, in the meantime, we are glad he can still access their activities and support while at home at Brentwood.

Thank you to Chopsticks for their support!

Richard leads the vocals

Five of the people we support in our services in Enfield have taken part in the Sing Out Choir with a unique and wonderful cover of the Beatles’ Hey Jude, with SJOG’s Richard Armstrong leading the vocals.  Sing Out Choir is an inclusive choir for adults on the autism spectrum or with a learning difficulty, based in Enfield, North London. Not all members have access to the internet, so home visits were made to record all their choir members singing at their doorsteps to feel connected again. “The feeling of shared excitement has kept many of us going over the past weeks.  We strongly believe singing is one of the best ways to feel relationship and feel socially connected to each other. Sing Out Choir members deserve recognition for their incredible efforts and optimism at the saddest of times, despite needing to shield at home for months.” Camilla Farrant, Choir Director

Click here to listen:

New SJOG team in Brighton supports victims of trafficking

SJOG’s work to reach more people who are victims of modern day slavery and trafficking continues with the opening of a new service in Brighton, and continues our partnership with The Salvation Army. The team working over three houses will provide care and support to help the recovery of those who have suffered extreme psychological trauma as a result of modern day slavery or trafficking.

Best wishes to them all and welcome to the SJOG family.

Photo shows from left to right:

Fabrice Akpro - Project Worker, Bianca Guerra - Bank Project Worker,  Kasia Lois - Team Leader, Miguel Neves – National Lead Homeless and Modern Day Slavery Services,  Sarah Mutesi – Bank Project Worker,  Giovanna Cabral – Project Worker

Goodbye Fred - you'll be missed

SJOG’s service, Lindisfarne Court in Darlington, has lost a long-standing resident of the home – Fred (Freddie) Nicholson.  Fred had been at Lindisfarne since it opened 28 years ago, in 1992.  He will be missed massively.  Fred was 86 and had been poorly for just a few days.  He knew that he was on end of life care and his wish was to be at home at Lindisfarne to be with his SJOG family.  The team made every effort to carry out his wish but alas Fred was too weak to come home. He had time with the people who had supported him for so many years at SJOG, together with his sister, and was in peace as he passed.

Fred’s death was not Covid-19 related, but strict visitor restrictions due to the virus were in place throughout the hospital meaning not all of the staff team were able to see Fred during his final days in person but managed to do so using FaceTime.  The outpouring of love from everyone at Lindisfarne was very evident and we are sure that Fred knew how much he meant to the entire team and all the other residents who he shared his home with.

Fred loved daffodils and in his memory, Lindisfarne was duly decorated with daffodil art in honour of him.

Rest in peace Fred.

Donation Funds Remote Assistance Model

People who are street homelessness and victims of modern day slavery have been particularly affected by the implications of Covid-19. 

To meet their needs during this time of social distancing - and help them move on to more stable independent living - we’ve had to think differently about how we provide support, and thanks to funding provided from the City Bridge Trust (part of the London Funders Network) we are now delivering our innovative ‘Remote Assistance Model’.

RAM will see the introduction of tablets and other items of everyday technology to our London-based safe houses, allowing us to keep in touch with each person we support, face to face, but remotely. The quality of support is maintained but the risk of infection to the people we support, and our colleagues providing the support is reduced. 

This further step into digital health provision, and the use of secure videoconferencing with partner organisations, including the NHS, will also enable us to continue to support people with the treatment of their infectious diseases like TB. 

We think this is an exciting step, and will be closely monitoring the impact of this new approach on both the outcomes of the people we support and the operational benefit it brings, with an aim of replicating this model across the country.  

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