Navigating the Certificate of Sponsorship Program: A Mixed Experience for Care Agencies and Carers

Read about home care managers' and carers experiences of the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Program. The good, and the frustrating aspects of the scheme.
Marie Page
5th October 2023

In the ever-changing landscape of the post-COVID and post-Brexit United Kingdom, the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) program has emerged as a vital visa sponsorship initiative. This program plays a crucial role in addressing the shortage of staff in the social care sector by allowing agencies to employ skilled individuals from outside the UK. Here, we will hear from care agency managers Neil Kentish from Coastal Homecare and Dolapo Adebiyi from Emerald Care Services, as well as Boglárka ‘Bogi’ Kalauz, a carer from Hungary, who successfully went through the CoS process.

Boglárka’s Journey

For Boglárka, the process of applying for the Certificate of Sponsorship program was initially daunting. To get permission to come and work in the UK as a carer, she scoured the internet for information, struggling to grasp the intricate details. Fortunately, her determination led her to an Excel Sheet on the UK Government’s website, listing companies that could sponsor non-UK residents to come and work in the UK. This led her to Coastal Homecare, where an in-person interview was promptly arranged after reaching out. Although the CoS application confirmation from the UK government took some time due to the holiday season, Boglárka’s perseverance paid off, and she received much-needed support from manager Neil Kentish, who guided her through each step of the process.

She added, “Applying for the Certificate of Sponsorship program was daunting at first, but my determination paid off, and I found support from Coastal Homecare.”

Working in the UK

For Boglárka, working in the UK has been a positive experience so far. The supportive and understanding environment she found has enabled her to live comfortably while also saving for the future. Working for Coastal Homecare was her first real full-time job, and she appreciates the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the social care sector.

Emerald Care Services, represented by Dolapo Adebiyi, also shares positive feedback on the CoS program, “The CoS program has been a positive experience for us; sponsored individuals are hardworking and lovely people. The program fulfils a critical need in the UK, allowing overseas talent to fill essential roles in the social care sector.”

Challenges with the CoS Program

However not all things are positive, “It is extremely time-consuming to do for a time-poor sector as it is. Not made any easier by Brexit.”

Neil Kentish, who took on Boglárka through the CoS program, provides an insightful perspective with mixed feelings. He acknowledges the importance of programs like CoS, especially in light of the recruitment challenge within the social care sector. The sector’s need for staff is pressing, and the program has been instrumental in providing skilled individuals like Bogi. However, Neil highlights several issues with the CoS process.

One major concern Neil raises is the lack of support from the government throughout the sponsorship journey. Managers, like himself, often find it challenging to navigate the bureaucratic system and lack human contact when seeking guidance. The program’s teething and technical problems further exacerbated the difficulties. For smaller care providers with limited resources, the time-consuming process of employing someone through CoS can be daunting.

Neil Harris, reflected on his experience with the Certificate of Sponsorship program, shedding light on its challenges and implications:

“In my experience, there is no human contact in the program whatsoever, leaving us to navigate the complex process on our own. The lack of support from the beginning and throughout the journey adds to the difficulties, presenting a very varied picture of the CoS program.

It can be particularly disheartening when applicants are on the cusp of obtaining a visa, only to encounter setbacks for a range of reasons. While such occurrences are to be expected, they happen more frequently than one would think, leading to disappointments and frustrations.”

Neil went on to say, “Undeniably, the social care sector is in dire need of workers, and the CoS program is one solution that addresses the staffing shortages. However, some may argue that these incentives merely serve as an aesthetic plaster over the deeper problem. The sector’s challenges are multi-faceted, and a comprehensive approach is required to bring lasting solutions.”

He acknowledges that it does not completely solve the social care sector’s staffing struggles. Challenges persist, and while individuals like Bogi are exceptional, Coastal Homecare has seen instances where the program has not worked out for various reasons.

The Certificate of Sponsorship program presents both opportunities and challenges for care agencies and carers alike. As demonstrated through the experiences of Boglárka ‘Bogi’ Kalauz, Dolapo Adebiyi, and Neil Kentish, the CoS process has brought skilled individuals into the UK social care sector. However, improvements are needed to address bureaucratic hurdles and provide much-needed support to employers throughout the sponsorship journey. Moving forward, the CoS program will continue to play a vital role in bolstering the social care sector and positively impacting the lives of carers and those they care for.

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