Our local MP has asked the Home Office to amend the new Brexit immigration rules so that Au Pairs can continue to be placed with host families. Read our letter to Gordon Henderson MP below:
I am aware that the Queen’s Speech is scheduled for 11 May. I am really hoping that legislation will be included to amend immigration rules so that Au Pairs from overseas can continue to be placed with host families in the numbers required to prevent a childcare crisis.
The Home Office has not provided helpful responses so far and, indeed, the last letter I saw to our trade association BAPAA was dismissive - it effectively said “stop bothering us with this”.
As you know, the Au Pair programme is a cultural exchange initiative with virtually all participants coming into the UK from European countries. Due to free movement of labour within the EU, applicants were easily able to participate without the need for a visa.
Au Pairs are an important part of the daily lives of many British parents. They help look after their children and offer the flexibility needed to work unsociable hours that no other form of childcare easily allows. The Au Pair has the opportunity to improve their English in exchange for ‘pocket money’ and free board & lodging.
The value of the Au Pair to our country has been particularly acute throughout the pandemic. Many host families are shift workers employed as nurses or doctors. They’ve been able to put the extra hours in without worrying about childcare.
As things stand, the Home Office has introduced a visa system that offers no credible route for European Au Pairs to enter the country. Instead, they have suggested that British people become Au Pairs. This is totally unworkable under UK employment law. Au Pairs ‘earn’ far less than the minimum wage - around £3 per hour. It is also absurd, given one of the stated aims of the Au Pair programme is to improve the participants’ English.
They have also listed Au Pairs under the “skilled worker” category which is totally inappropriate for these young people. When questions were raised on how Au Pair Agencies can use this visa, they were told it was not intended for use to recruit Au Pairs...
All reputable agencies, including ourselves, have taken the difficult step of stopping the placement of Au Pairs. This means 45,000 households face the prospect of rearranging childcare after what has already been a disruptive year for the youngest in society. Others will have to give up work altogether, with the resulting implications for household and welfare budgets.
Could I ask you please to contact the Home Office again to request the introduction of a dedicated Au Pair visa so the pending childcare crisis can be avoided. Failing that, we would like the Home Office to introduce temporary arrangements that would allow Au Pairs to continue arriving until more permanent solutions are found. Failure to do this will see shift workers no longer in a position to go the extra mile, or indeed to hold down their job at all. It is also likely to lead to exploitation of the visa system, with youngsters brought in via black market operations.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Benedicte Speed, County Nannies Ltd