Liberals Fear Post-Brexit Shortage of Foreign Au Pairs to Look After Their Kids

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The middle class are finding it harder to draft in cheap foreign au pairs from the European Union to look after their children and homes since the Brexit vote.

Agencies which place au pairs have seen their labour supply shrink by 75 per cent since the 2016 referendum on European Union membership. They fear it will shrink even more after Britain properly exits the bloc at the end of the 2020 “transition” period, during which Britain is formally out of the EU but still subject to all of its rules and its migration regime.

Lorraine Bushell, who has been placing au pairs with British families for 50 years, told the BBC that she suspected “adverse publicity in EU countries may have put them off from coming in the numbers required” to satisfy her clients.

“I now really only run my nanny service, placing British girls with families,” Bushell mourned.

“It’s been ghastly,” agreed Maggie Dyer, of the British Au Pair Agencies Association (BAPAA), suggesting that the vote to Leave the European Union had sent a message that “we don’t like foreigners and you won’t be welcome”.

“As well as being a very important cultural exchange, it is also a very affordable form of childcare and is less stressful for working families than sending children to breakfast or after school clubs,” said BAPAA chairwoman Jamie Shackell, who is pushing for a special carve-out for European au pairs after Britain escapes from the EU’s Free Movement migration regime after the end of the “transition” period in December 2020.

Recruiters fears that if EU au pairs need to have passports — EU migrants can currently enter Britain on cheaper, easier to forge identity cards — and possibly visas, “they might choose to go to sunny Australia or the U.S.” rather than the United Kingdom, given the main appeal of their generally low-pay, short-term work is to improve their English skills.

While the BBC report on the supposed au pair crisis does not allude to it, the industry is controversial — and in fact the BBC does display an article titled ‘Au pair recruitment “like the Wild West”, says expert’ alongside the report as a related story.

The ‘Wild West’ article describes concerns over au pairs, 75 per cent of whom are in the wealthy south-east of England and London,  and how some experts see the visa-free, non-regulated system governing the industry as exploitative and unsafe.

“You could be on the sex offenders register and you’d still be allowed to host an au pair in your house,” noted Dr Rosie Cox, of Birkbeck, University of London.

Au pairs are meant to work only 30 hours a week in exchange for free bed and board and “pocket money”, but some describe being made to work far longer and treated as “domestic slaves”.

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