Senior SBC councillors to consider report on Hawick care company amid ‘modern slavery’ claims

A report on the Hawick-based care service will be discussed in private.A report on the Hawick-based care service will be discussed in private.
A report on the Hawick-based care service will be discussed in private.
Senior Scottish Borders councillors will next week consider a report on a Hawick-based care company which has had its licence to sponsor workers from abroad revoked by the Home Office amid ‘modern slavery’ allegations.

Support Services First Choice Limited, based in Teviot Crescent since 2021, is being investigated by the UK government over claims it was breaching migrant worker rules.

The firm provides healthcare workers who support people living in their own homes across the Borders.

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But its international sponsorship licence, which allows it to use relaxed immigration rules to fill vacancies, has been suspended after concerns were raised over how staff were treated.

When members of the council’s Executive Committee meet on Tuesday, April 16, they will receive a behind-closed-doors update on the company from the council’s director of Health and Social Care.

The report will be considered under ‘private business’ with the public and press excluded from that section of the meeting.

In a statement, the Home Office said the care provider was found to be non-compliant with the requirements for organisations that hold a sponsor licence for migrant workers.

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It said it would be “inappropriate to comment while an investigation is ongoing” and that “any accusations of illegal employment practices are thoroughly looked into”.

Under its rules – based on a 37.5 hour working week limit – staff must be paid a minimum of £20,960, or £10.75 per hour, whichever is higher.

Those found operating unlawfully, and paying staff less, can face prosecution.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) has confirmed it was working with the Home Office to alleviate care worker shortages created by the current investigation into the company.

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In a statement, the local authority said: “A care provider has lost their international sponsorship licence and we are engaging with all parties to ensure continuity of care.”

It added it was “unable to comment” on “the exact circumstances that led to the loss of the licence” which are the subject of the inquiry.

Support Services First Choice was set up by Ottilia Chingosho, a qualified staff nurse, in 2019.

The firm was registered to an address at Edinburgh Napier University, before moving to its Teviot Crescent base at unit 4 on the Annfield Business Centre.