The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that senior care workers and registered managers be placed on the Shortage Occupation List.
The news means that the salary threshold for these roles would be reduced to £20,480 from £25,600 when the new immigration rules come into force next year.
Twenty points would also be allocated and go towards the total of 70 points needed to be eligible to work in the UK.
In its review of the SOL, the committee warned of the “stark consequences” of low wages in social care – and if more funding is not announced in a “timely manner” then pressure will ramp up on the sector.
However, it resisted recommending that care workers should be added to the list and instead called for jobs within the sector to be made more attractive to UK workers by increasing salaries rather than relying on migrants.
“The MAC has argued for some years now that funding social care to a level that enables higher wages to be paid, and consequently makes jobs more attractive to the domestic workforce, is the right way to address the workforce issues in the sector, rather than relying on migrant workers to fill the gaps,” the MAC said.
“The risks of this funding increase not happening in a timely manner are stark. If that does not occur, or occurs with substantial delay, we would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social care sector, something that would be particularly difficult to understand at a time when so many care occupations are central to the COVID-19 pandemic frontline response.”
United Kingdom Homecare Association said that while care workers and care coordinators have not been added to the SOL, it is “encouraged” by the remarks made about the need for additional funding in social care.
Trade union Unison said including senior care staff on the SOL is welcome, but will make “little difference” to the councils and care companies that are struggling to fill vacancies.
UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The decision to make it more difficult for overseas care workers to fill the glut of vacancies is creating an unnecessary recruitment timebomb.
“Social care is undervalued, badly paid and buckling under the effect of years of political indifference and under-investment.
“The sector needs to be properly funded and wages increased. Any delay in doing so only adds to the pressure on staff still reeling from the first COVID-19 wave while preparing to tackle a second.”