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The Disability Link In The Immigration Debate #racistvan #gohome #foreignborn

August 3, 2013

Today, readers, I got yet more proof that disability is everywhere.

Immigration has been back in the UK news this week, with a new campaign involving these ‘racist’ vans:

 billboard migrant which has been responded to with humour and ‘spot checks’ of people from ethnic minorities which have been responded to with strength.

I am South Asian and have personally found the news a painful thing to watch this week as a result of all of this. However, it has, until now, not been relevant to Same Difference as there has not, until now, been a disability link in the story.

Today, however, I’ve found one. Chris Bryant MP, an immigration minister, has said in an article in today’s Telegraph that public sector workers must speak English well. He gave the particular example of carers for elderly or disabled people.

Now, personally I love the English language and can speak it well. I’ve grown up here, completed my education here and I now earn here and pay tax.

I personally do agree that all immigrants should be able to speak English- at least enough to understand the basics of life in England and, in most cases, to find a job, understand the work they are asked to do and make themselves understood.

However, personally I wonder if speaking English ‘well’ is as important for immigrant carers as it is for immigrants in other professions. In my personal experience this is particularly true of carers for elderly people.

Of course, if immigrants find work in residential care homes, where there is no guarantee that their clients will share their ethnicity and therefore be able to speak their language, then a good level of spoken English would be extremely useful to them, and for everyone involved.

However, I have heard of residential care homes for elderly people which are specifically for the South Asian community in particular. Such places are more likely to employ South Asian people and, since clients are unlikely to be able to speak English ‘well’ themselves, they actually prefer carers who are fluent in their native language.

Also, if immigrants* find work as carers for councils, carrying out home visits, families of elderly or disabled people from ethnic minorities are likely to request carers who share their ethnicity, and therefore are fluent in their native language, where possible.  This could be for the comfort of either the elderly client or the parents or older family members of a younger disabled client.

If immigrants find work as live-in carers for elderly or disabled people, then again families from ethnic minorities are more likely to employ a person who shares their ethnicity and is fluent in their native language. This would be for all the reasons given above, as well as reasons such as the carer being more comfortable sharing the food cooked in the family home and as a result, saving themselves the time and money that would be spent buying food for themselves in such employment.

So yes, Home Office. Encourage the speaking of English. But please remember that as you’ve allowed immigration for so many years without encouraging the speaking of English ‘well,’ you are now faced with a situation in which you can’t teach an old immigrant a new language.  So you’re ‘stuck with’ some of ‘us lot’ who might actually need people who can’t speak English ‘well’ to live in this country.

*The references to ‘immigrants’ in this post have been made for ease and speed of typing. No racism to any ethnic group or rudeness is intended with the use of this word.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2013 6:39 pm

    You might well need good English if you’re working in an Asian care home, because as time goes on, there will be more elderly Asians who speak English best, or speak no other language well. Also, there are hundreds of Asian languages and someone who speaks Hindi might not be able to communicate well with a Bengali-speaker, let alone a Tamil-speaker (as they are nothing like each other), but all are likely to know at least some English. Just because someone comes to work in an Asian care home, it doesn’t follow that they won’t want to (or have to) work in a mainstream one, or do home care (and then they are even more likely to encounter English-speakers). If any care qualifications come to be required, these are likely to be taught in English, and any reporting to be done about the conditions of those being cared for (to their doctor, for example) is likely to be have to be done in English. It’s much the same thinking that says an imam doesn’t need to know English because “everyone speaks Urdu”, but in fact most British Muslims don’t.

  2. samedifference1 permalink*
    August 3, 2013 6:52 pm

    Matthew- this post applies to my thoughts based on how things are right now. Obviously as older generation immigrants sadly pass on these thoughts will become less relevant.

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