Local authorities offer clients right to refuse "foreign" care staff

The local authorities in a county in northern Sweden are promising elderly people that their caregiver will not have an immigrant background, reveals an undercover report.

Reporters at the local radio station in Västernorrland have called around to the local authorities in the country, claiming to have a parent in need of care in the home, but who wanted to avoid "foreign staff".

The answer, from all the seven local authorities, was that - more or less - this was a possible option. 

"If it is completely impossible, and (your mother) can't take it, then you can ban those people from coming. We have got a planning system, where all our work is planned. So for example, if a client is allergic to cats, you can ban staff with cats from going to that client, and you could do the same here. We got someone here who is doing the planning, so she will just have to keep track of that, when she is planning," said the head of the Timrå municipality care unit.

And in Ånge municipality, the head of the care unit says she has made sure that there is no-one of foreign descent coming in extra over the summer.

"At the moment we don't have anyone with a foreign descent working and I have taken that into account also over the summer. It is a little problematic when it comes to the home help, I think," she said.

The head of the care unit in Sundsvall said that no such demands could be met, but documents leaked to the reporters from a database over the clients in the municipality's care unit, show a different picture.

Next to the names of some clients, there are instructions in capital letters, with exclamation marks. It says, for example, that the client in question: "DOES NOT WANT HELP FROM IMMIGRANT STAFF... IMPORTANT TO ENSURE THIS!"

The reporters spoke to several members of staff, who underlined that it is not about a problem of language, but that anyone can be banned from a client just because they have the "wrong" skin colour or carry a head scarf. And when the reporters asked the care units about the hypothetical case, there was never any mention of language, just a general expression of the supposed mother "did not like immigrant staff".

When the reporters called back to the head's of the municipalities care units, they changed their minds, or simply avoided answering even numerous attempts to get hold of them. The head of the care unit in Timrå, who had compared it to being allergic to cats, said she had been taken by surprise by the first call, and that - come to think of it - this was not a demand they would be prepared to meet.

In trying to explain why she had said so, during the first phone call, she said:

"I think I was reasoning that, in general, we are trying to meet the wishes of the clients, because it is them we are here for," she said.

But after reconsidering, she said she no longer deems it reasonable that a person refuses care givers who are of foreign descent.

"If they cannot accept what is offered, they will have to say no to the care all together, that's how I look at it now," she said.