The Welsh Government is urging the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to include social care workers on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
Responding to the MAC’s call for evidence on the SOL, the government said it “strongly opposes” the UK government’s proposals on future migration and urged ministers to pause their plans.
It said a decision not to add care workers to the list would “compound the significant challenges” the sector already faces.
“This would be more acute in the context of future austerity measures and the yet unknown impact of COVID-19 on future workforce requirements,” it said.
The Welsh Government added: “Whilst we recognise that including social care on the shortage occupation list and relying solely on international migration will not solve all of the existing recruitment challenges in social care, we do see them as mechanisms to support our home-grown talent routes to address the current need.
“Any workforce shortages in social care will indirectly impact on the NHS if individuals cannot be discharged from hospital to their home supported by domiciliary care or to residential care.”
Until now, Wales has worked to the UK’s SOL, with only Scotland having a separate list.
In its evidence to the MAC, the Welsh Government highlights social care as a “fragile sector” with long-standing recruitment issues and high turnover rates.
“High rates of staff turnover are detrimental to providers because of the costs associated with recruitment and training, and importantly to those receiving care and support because of a lack in continuity of care,” it said.
“Workers in the social care sector provide vital support for individuals that would otherwise need to be provided by the NHS or by families. In circumstances where there is no formal care provision available the reliance on informal care, such as by family members, will take those individuals out of the labour market thereby increasing the burden on the welfare state and reducing workforce supply for other sectors.
“The NHS depends on a functioning social care system which is adequately staffed by skilled carers.”
The recommendations come after the MAC launched a six-week call for evidence, asking employers for their views on the roles that are being filled by migrant workers, the salaries they are paid and implications of potential changes.
In May, United Kingdom Homecare Association urged home care providers to share their experiences in recruiting staff from overseas as part of a review of the SOL.
The organisation said it was an “important opportunity” to advise the MAC of the need for social care to continue to be able to recruit staff from abroad.