Migrant social care workers will be excluded from the government’s fast-track visa system for health and care workers, the Home Office has confirmed.
Details of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, published today, reveal that while doctors, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists qualify for the visa, there will be no route into the UK for the vast majority of care workers.
The news comes despite repeated warnings from the social care sector about workforce shortages.
A Home Office spokesperson told Sky News that the government wants employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country.
“On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5bn of funding for social care in 2021-22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign,” the spokesperson added.
The new Health and Care Visa, part of the ‘Skilled Worker’ route, allows for fast-track entry to the UK, with reduced application fees and dedicated support regarding the application process.
Those who are eligible to apply for the visa, and their dependents, will also be exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
The government said that frontline workers in the health and social care sector who are not eligible for the new visa will pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, but will benefit from a reimbursement scheme, with further details to follow “in due course”.
Commenting on the update, ADASS president James Bullion said: “Social care has a vacancy rate of 122,000 and the highest turnover rate of any sector in the country. For this reason we need access to the broadest possible pool of candidates to ensure the availability of high quality care and support services for those people that need it.
“Government must provide a sector-specific visa route enabling international recruitment into social care until such time that that reform and funding proposals have been agreed and implemented.
“As a nation we cannot, and must not, go into what could be the most challenging winter in recent history for health and social care with further uncertainty about where our workforce will come from.”#
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said that despite calls from adult social care and the NHS’ own representative bodies, including the Cavendish Coalition, the government has “failed to pay any dues to the sectors specific needs”, thus leaving it “out in the cold”.
“This is particularly worrying given the wider context of the instability which COVID-19 has placed upon the adult social care sector. The impending threat of the international workforce supply being turned off has the potential to de-stabilise the sector even further with potentially disastrous consequences,” he added.
Green continued: “We must ensure that all efforts are made so that adult social care is perceived as a good career choice on a par with the NHS. In order to do this we need to see substantial investment from Government rather than short term sticking plasters. There will be a continuing need for overseas staff until the Government delivers a proper workforce strategy for social care and also the money required to give the staff the salaries and conditions they richly deserve. Our staff are our best resource and we want to reward them as such.”
Rehana Azam, National Secretary at the GMB union, branded the new rules “incompetence” and an “embarrassing shambles”.
She added: “The proposed ‘Health and Care Visa’ apparently fails to include care workers and NHS contractors within its scope.
“It imposes salary thresholds that would prevent most underpaid care workers and many NHS porters, cleaners, and other support staff from qualifying for in any event.
“Who will keep our hospitals running and our care home going when ministers pull up the drawbridge?”