A deputy speaker of the House of Commons is supporting calls for the government to review its immigration policy to prevent a severe shortage of care workers from EU countries.
Nigel Evans, Second Deputy Speaker and Conservative MP for the Ribble Valley, said he has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, urging her to comment on concerns that the workforce shortage would lead to an increase in the cost of care.
He said the new immigration rules would mean that many migrant care workers would be unable to meet the A-Level standard required to work in the UK, despite having “extensive care experience and specialised training”, and this would “greatly impact” care providers and, by extension, the people who need care.
The Deputy Speaker made the comments in response to a letter from live-in care provider Promedica24, which is calling for an “urgent review” of the Immigration Bill.
Paula Beaney, quality assurance director at Promedica24, said: “The recent Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) shows that the average salary of a care worker in 2019 was £15,348, approximately £10k less than that required under the new immigration policy.
“Two-thirds of EU migrants currently working in our health and social care sector would not be eligible for a visa under the government’s plan, and there are also 40,000 nursing vacancies; a shortage that will only be exacerbated by the government’s proposals.”
The Home Office confirmed last month that migrant social care workers will be excluded from the government’s fast-track visa system for health and care workers, a decision members of the House of Lords said it would “live to regret”.
The decision came despite repeated warnings from the social care sector about workforce shortages.
“It is hard to understand the government’s motives and why it remains so adamant on its immigration policies for the care sector, whilst showing flexibility and protection towards the agriculture industry,” said Beaney.
“In less than six months, older and vulnerable people may be unable to source or afford vital care services and ultimately, will be left alienated and without the support they desperately need.”
Trade union GMB has warned that the social care system faces a “black hole” of almost half a million care workers, thanks to new immigration rules brought in by the government.
Branding Home Secretary Priti Patel’s immigration policy “slapdash” and “insulting”, GMB said that closing the door on recruits from overseas will worsen the workforce crisis in social care, which already has 110,000 unfilled vacancies.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also predicts that by 2030, one in five people in the UK (21.8%) will be 65 years or over, and 4.5 million will be over 85 years of age, creating a greater demand for care.
Knowing the statistics and the impact the Immigration Bill could have on the most vulnerable, Promedica24 sent letters to MPs on both sides of the political spectrum to share their concerns and evidence.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton said she has tabled a “reasoned amendment” to oppose the entire legislation and has “consistently” made the case for an Immigration Bill that would not impact negatively on services like social care.
“In March I sponsored this Early Day Motion and have also held the Government to account through written Parliamentary questions on immigration routes for health and social care workers, and the impact of the proposed £25,600 salary threshold on the sector,” she said.
“Frustratingly, the Home Office took four months to respond to my question and their reply provides little reassurance. It is frankly insulting that, despite the Government’s proclaimed appreciation of carers during the coronavirus pandemic, they have continued to class these hugely dedicated professionals as unskilled.”
But the view of MPs who support the new Immigration Bill remains unchanged.
Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale & Darwen said: “When people voted to leave the EU, they did so in the knowledge that the free movement system imposed by the EU would end. I welcome the government’s commitment to build a fairer single, global immigration system which considers people based on their skills, rather than nationality. I have always believed that the new points-based system is more than simply controlling immigration.
“This process is also about the creation of a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy. This ambition explains why the Government will not be introducing a general low skilled or temporary work route. I welcome this approach as the UK needs to move away from relying on cheap labour from Europe and focus instead on investment in technology and automation.”
Commenting on how the immigration policies will affect care providers, Berry added: “Over recent weeks we have all seen our NHS and social care services serve the people of our country with distinction and dedication. I can assure you that our new points-based immigration system will not just allow but actively welcome a range of health professionals to the United Kingdom. I welcome the fact that the framework for future immigration will provide the flexibility to adapt to changing times and the Government will ensure the health and care service is supported.”