Decision of the Complaints Committee 18382-17 Consultus Care & Nursing Limited v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Consultus Care & Nursing Limited complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the following articles:
2. The first article reported on the social care crisis in the UK. The article reported that due to a shortage of care workers in the UK, care agencies have hired “thousands of expats” to return to the UK for short term placements as live in carers. It stated that British agencies are “trawling popular resorts such as Benidorm and Malaga” and recruiting “builders, barmaids and bankrupt businessmen” to care for the elderly “with just a few days training.” The article also stated that many of the recruits “have no professional qualifications or previous experience of care” and included quotations from one person who felt “daunted” as the sole carer for a vulnerable individual.
3. The article referred to Consultus Care as being one care company that recruits expats in Spain. The article included a statement from the company’s project manager who said, in relation to the expats, that “they are here because they haven’t got any money, where they are coming into a job they don’t want to do and it’s difficult for some of them.”
4. The second article reported that experts have warned that care in Britain has reached a “tipping point,” with record levels of hospital “bed-blocking” and a “growing shortage of carers.” It reported that in this environment, one care agency had placed 400 overseas care workers in the UK in the month of November alone. The article reported that Consultus Care had experienced “a huge increase” in the number of expats working for them and included quotations from a “former barmaid” who now works as a live-in carer for Consultus Care, who said “work is money and money is work.” The article reported that due to the imbalance between supply and demand, the “deal is arguably tailored more to meet the needs of the care worker that those of the vulnerable person.”
5. The online article, headlined, “’Jet-in’ carers from Benidorm to Britain amid ‘massive’ care crisis,” contained much of the same information as the two articles that appeared in print. It also included a comment made by the project manager of Consultus Care that “short stints are beneficial to clients because it allowed them to work non-stop without taking days off.” It reported that “while workers can chose to return to the same client, the work is heavily promoted on the basis that care workers do not have to be pinned down.” It also contained quotations from the chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, who commented “we should be growing our own workforce, not relying on short-term stints from people flying in from overseas.”
6. The complainant said that the articles created a misleading impression of the suitability and dedication of short-term care workers employed by Consultus Care. The complainant said that, by referring to the carers as “builders, barmaids and bankrupt businessmen”, the article implied that these individuals were unsuitable for the role. The complainant said that quotations attributed to their project manager were misleading and suggested that the care workers it recruited were motivated by money and did not have a genuine interest in the role.
7. The complainant said it was inaccurate to state that many carers have “no professional qualifications or previous experience of care.” It said that of the 14 carers recruited from Spain in the previous year by Consultus Care, all but one had care experience. It also said that all new recruits must complete an intensive residential induction and that all carers had access to regular training throughout their time with Consultus Care, which the complainant believed the company representative had made clear in her interview. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to refer to the care worker interviewed as a “former barmaid” as she had previously cared for a relative for 18 months.
8. The complainant also raised concerns that the article misrepresented its overseas recruitment, specifically in Spain. The complainant said that of the 418 new carers it had recruited in the previous year, only 14 were from Spain, none of whom were from Benidorm and only three were from Malaga. The complainant said that while the company does have a recruitment consultant in Spain and runs adverts in English speaking media on the Costa Brava, the recruiter was based 40 miles from Benidorm. The complainant also provided information about the number of carers recruited from Spain in the previous year by various UK care agencies, which it said showed that the claim in the articles that “thousands” of expats were taking up placements was inaccurate.
9. The complainant also contested the article’s claim that Consultus Care does not conduct health and safety inspections of its customers’ homes before sending in new workers. The complainant said that new carers are not sent into the homes of new clients. New clients are always cared for by experienced carers and these experienced carers assess all the circumstances of the client and their home, including health and safety. The complainant also said that it was misleading for the articles to state that “because the carers are self-employed, their activity is not regulated by the Care Quality Commission,” as it believed it suggested that their company was not regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
10. The complainant also said the articles were inaccurate as it claimed carers received ”subsidised travel.” It did not pay travel costs for applicants from overseas, but successful applicants were able to claim modest travel costs for a UK journey after the successful completion of training and two placements with clients.
11. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the focus of the article was the worsening care crisis in the UK and, specifically, the ways in which the shortage of carers was being addressed. It said that senior politicians had questioned the qualifications and dedication of those being paid to look after the most vulnerable and that there was a public interest in reporting on this matter. It said that many short term expatriate carers have little previous experience and are motivated primarily by the need to earn money. The newspaper said that the article focused on the care industry as a whole, and had included Consultus Care as just one example of companies that were exploiting the care crisis for profit. The newspaper said that the company’s project manager had told their reporter that many of their care workers were motivated by money and did not necessarily want to do the job, which had been confirmed by the care worker they spoke to, who had described herself as a former barmaid and had made clear that her main motivation for going to the UK was to work as a carer was the money. The newspaper provided notes of the interview with the project manager to support this.
12. The newspaper said that the reference to “builders, barmaids and bankrupt business men” in the articles did not relate directly to Consultus Care, but reflected the range of individuals working in the industry in general. It also said that many expats recruited into the industry in general had no previous experience, and noted that Consultus Care admitted recruiting some individuals who had no direct caring experience. In these circumstances, the newspaper did not accept it was inaccurate to state many did not have professional qualifications or experience. It said that the company’s project manager had stated in her interview that “they don’t have to have any training” and admitted that new carers were only required to attend a residential induction, lasting a couple of days, which it believed was accurately reported in the article.
13. The newspaper said that the complainant employed a recruitment consultant in Spain, specifically to recruit expatriate workers there. It said that this recruiter had told the newspaper that the company runs adverts in English language newspapers and radio on the Costa Brava and Costa Del Sol. The newspaper also said that the company’s project manager had stated that it sometimes recruited as many as 50 care workers a year from Spain and currently had hundreds of Spanish care workers on their books.
14. The newspaper also said that as the live-in carers discussed in the article were self-employed, there was no legal requirement for Consultus Care to conduct health and safety inspections. While it accepted that informal inspections are conducted by other self-employed carers, the inspections are not untaken by Consultus Care, in contrast to the legal requirements for employed carers. Also, the newspaper said that the company’s project manager had told the newspaper that care workers are given different expenses depending on how far they have come, which sometimes completely covers the cost of their airfare. Therefore, it said that it was accurate for the articles to report that one of the incentives was subsidised travel.
Relevant Code provisions
15. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and- where appropriate- an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Findings of the Committee
16. The articles reported on social care in the UK and the implications of the shortage of domestic care workers. The articles were investigative pieces into the care industry in general, and referenced a number of agencies and individuals involved in the provision of overseas care workers. In this context, the articles contained a large number of comments about the industry generally, but also a number of claims that related specifically to the complainant.
17. With regard to the complainant's concern that the articles gave a misleading impression of the suitability of workers employed by Consultus Care, the articles made clear the basis for the newspaper’s general position that money is the main motivation for many short term expatriate carers in the industry. It included quotations from a care worker who stated “work is money and money is work,” as well as the project manager of the complainant who had said “they are here because they haven’t got any money”. The newspaper had provided the journalist’s notes of the interviews with the project manager, which supported the quotation attributed to her in the article. Similarly, where the newspaper made clear that, due to the imbalance of supply and demand, it considered that the flexible arrangement benefitted the care workers more than the clients, it was entitled to express this view. This characterisation was clearly presented as a comment on the industry as a whole, and the complainant was not in a position to demonstrate that this was not the case. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
18. The reference to recruits being “builders, barmaids and bankrupt businessmen” highlighted the backgrounds of individuals who are carrying out these roles in the care sector in general, and was not specific to the individuals recruited by the complainant. Where the complainant accepted that such a background would not exclude an individual from being a care worker, and the articles included an interview with a care worker who described herself as a “former barmaid” and a care worker who had previously been a builder, the article was not inaccurate or misleading on this point. Also, where the complainant did not dispute that in her interview with the journalist the care worker had described herself as a “former barmaid”, it was not inaccurate for the article to refer to her in this way.
19. The articles had claimed that many care workers who were recruited from overseas had just a few days training and no previous care experience or qualifications before taking sole charge of their vulnerable clients. While the complainant disputed that this claim applied to its care workers, this characterisation by the newspaper was directed at the industry in general. Similarly, the claim that “subsidised travel” was an incentive used to attract expats to return to the UK to undertake these roles, related to the incentives offered by the industry as a whole, and was not a claim made in relation to the incentives offered to those recruited through Consultus Care. There was no breach of Clause 1.
20. The complainant’s project manager had told the newspaper that Consultus Care staff “did not have to have any training”, but that they had to attend a four day course before taking on their first placement as a live-in carer. While the Committee noted the complainant’s position that its care workers were able to access training throughout their time working for the company, the newspaper had accurately reported that the only training requirement for carers recruited by Consultus Care was a four day training course, as confirmed by the complainant’s representative. In these circumstances, there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
21. The articles were commenting, generally, upon the recruitment of care workers from overseas. The project manager had stated in her interview that Consultus Care had “hundreds” of Spanish workers on their books, and recruited as many as 50 workers a year from Spain. The complainant also accepted that it engages a recruitment consultant in Spain, who is based within close proximity to Benidorm, and that it recruits along the Costa del Sol and the Costa Brava, including Malaga and Benidorm. In such circumstances, the article had not inaccurately reported the complainant’s recruitment practices in Spain. The article also included remarks which had been made by another care agency, which had placed 400 overseas care workers in the UK in one month alone. Given the scale of recruitment, it was not inaccurate for the articles to have reported that “thousands of expats“ were taking short term placements as live- in carers in the UK. The articles did not breach Clause 1 on this point.
22. The complainant’s representative had confirmed that Consultus Care did not itself carry out health and safety assessments on the homes of new clients before it sends in carers who it has recruited who are self-employed, in contrast to the inspections which are undertaken when it sends in carers or nurses which are employed by Consultus Care. While it was accepted that an initial inspection of the home was undertaken by other self-employed carers at the beginning of each placement, this does not amount to an official health and safety assessment undertaken by the company itself. In these circumstances, it was not inaccurate for the article to state that the company did not carry out health and safety inspections. Similarly, where the care work carried out by the self-employed carers is not overseen by the Care Quality Commission, the article was not inaccurate in relation to the oversight role of the Commission. There was no breach of Clause 1.
23. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial Action required
Date complaint received: 08/09/2017
Date decision issued: 22/12/2017
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