Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, Profiles, United Kingdom

Immigrants… Not cleaners, but carers

Accommodation and full board in exchange for looking after children; millions of young people arrive in London from all over the world  with this exact purpose. She came from Cuba, passing through Spain on the way, she is an Au Pair and she intends to stay here.


When she saw the advert she did not think twice. A British family in London needed a nanny for their son and Ofelia Henao decided to take a break from her studies at university to come and live in the United Kingdom.

This Cuban young woman with Spanish nationality left the Iberian Peninsula in September. Like her, according to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics around a million people have left the country since 2011, of which 810,367 were immigrants.

Ofelia has lived through the phenomenon known as the “second immigration”, a phenomenon in which immigrants have gained a Spanish citizenship, but now live in another European country without any visa problems.

She agrees that her migratory status has “benefitted me greatly”. “I haven’t had to fill in any paperwork to be in England, nor have I had any difficulties to work, I got my National Insurance Number really easily” she says.

“I have a friend who came straight from Mexico, but she hasn’t had the same luck. She has a limited time that she can live and work here for”, adds Ofelia. She currently looks after a 15 year old boy five days a week who has an autistic spectrum disorder.

She looks after the teenager on weekdays and takes him to school, she helps him communicate, and she stimulates him with new things and generally makes his life a lot easier.

Ofelia is one of the young people who live with one of 20,000 British families who each year employ an Au Pair in exchange of full board and a pay check which is around £70 to £100 a week.

“I decided to do it because I have always liked the language and I have dreamed of living in London since I was little. Coming as an Au Pair is a great way of starting out. It is a simple job, it doesn’t require a big investment and you manage to save a bit too”.

When asked about her future, Ofelia says, “I would like to be able to study dramatic arts. I know it’s a tough job and a very competitive industry, but I still really want to do it, maybe I’ll end up as a drama teacher”.

Not cleaners, but nannies

In her free time Ofelia goes to English classes in order to perfect her communication in English. She is working very hard at it to be able to improve. In the mean time she is aware that she was lucky with the family that she ended up with, even though her new life lacks independence.

“Even though you have your own room, living under the same roof of the family that you work for means that you never get the privacy that you sometimes need”.

Excessive work schedules implemented by the family are in many cases the centre of the criticism of this type of work. Ironing clothes belonging to the whole family or doing tough housework are just some of the responsibilities which should never be given to Au Pairs.

“I have friends who had the impression that they were coming to work for a really welcoming family who had promised them all sorts of things, but who later saw that things were not how they had expected them to be; they did more work as cleaners than as child carers. I also have a friend who was fired on the spot with no explanation as to why. That’s really hard, you are not in your own country and you find yourself on the street with your suitcase without knowing where to go. The agency did not worry themselves too much”, she says. Although the Latin rhythm runs through her veins and her skin colour makes her stand out from the crowd, she feels “like any other member of this society” where immigrants “are always welcomed warmly”.

*Real facts, fictitious name.

 (Translated by Frances Singer – – Photos: Pixabay

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *