Friends of the Elderly in staff swoop on Poland

Friends of the Elderly has capitalised on EU enlargement by turning to Poland to recruit healthcare assistants for its care homes.

Two weeks before Poland joined the European Union on 1 May, the charity placed an advert in the Warsaw Gazette. Human resources director John Gould flew out to interview candidates on 4 and 5 May, and, of the 30 interviewees, 11 were appointed immediately with a further 6 due to be recruited shortly.

Low pay and perceptions that care work is laborious and unglamorous has made it increasingly difficult for the charity to find staff in the UK.

A recent job ad in a local newspaper in Woking elicited just two replies, both from foreign nationals without work visas.

By contrast, the Polish applicants were desperate to work and escape an economy where unemployment is currently running at 20 per cent.

Gould said: "Some people were so keen to apply for a job, they had to stay overnight and others travelled for five hours to attend the interview."

Care homes director Lorna Long added: "The qualities shown by the applicants were excellent, as were their education and experience - some even had Master's degrees; but we were humbled by their values and determination to succeed." Wages for similar jobs in Poland are around a third of those in England.

The charity, which celebrates its centenary next year, also provides accommodation for the healthcare assistants and training for an NVQ qualification.

Chief executive Richard Furze said the charity had been careful to ensure the care home residents understand where the new assistants have come from. "But they all speak very good English and come from a culture that is geared towards caring anyway, so there haven't been any problems."

The success of the Polish visit means that the charity has been fully staffed since 1 June, and Furze said Poland seemed to have a big enough pool of talent that he didn't expect to look to any other EU countries for staff for a long time.

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