Boris Johnson’s pledge to scrap a £30,000 minimum salary threshold for immigrants arriving after Brexit is a ‘step in the direction’ for home care, but more action is needed to tackle staff shortages in the sector, United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) has warned.
According to The Times, the Prime Minister will call time on the earnings requirement as part of a shake-up of the UK’s immigration system once it leaves the European Union.
Leaders in the social care sector have previously warned that the threshold is unrealistic for most home care employers and will worsen the growing workforce crisis in the sector.
UKHCA has welcomed the decision to scrap the income rule, but urged the government to add home care workers to the Shortage Occupation List, adding that an Australian-style points system is still needed to recognise the value of individuals working on the front line.
“For the homecare sector, scrapping the £30k threshold would be a step in the right direction, but the full criteria for a points-based system overall will be significant,” said UKHCA policy director Colin Angel.
“At the moment there is relatively little overseas recruitment into the homecare sector; the majority of non-British EEA and EU nationals working in homecare were already living in the UK before they sought work in social care.
“We’d like to see Government add front-line homecare workers to the shortage occupation list, and a points-based system to recognise the contribution that careworkers make to UK society.”
Julie Ogley, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care Services (ADASS) agreed, explaining that more needs to be done to attract and retain skilled social care staff.
“Removing the threshold would be a welcome first step for adult social care. The problems of recruitment and retention in social care are well documented with 122,000 posts vacant at any one time,” she told HCI.
“This would remove one barrier to attracting and retaining care staff, but it must be part of a wider workforce plan that values and rewards current and future staff. It must attract more dedicated and skilled people into the profession, ensuring we have the staff required to deliver the care and support that millions need to live our lives, now and in the future.
“We will await the formal Government announcement and consider its impact on the sector, wider local government and the NHS.”
A points-based system takes migrants’ earnings into account alongside a host of other factors including English language skills, occupation and qualifications.
Sajid Javid ordered a review of Theresa May’s planned earnings threshold last June in an initial sign that it could be dropped.
The then home secretary told the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to examine whether the policy would be workable.
In November, Care England, the largest representative body for independent adult social care providers, submitted evidence to MAC regarding its review.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said at the time: “Social care staff are our most precious and important resource. Recruitment and retention of social care staff is a huge challenge which could be further exacerbated by the proposed rise in salary threshold. The sector’s ability to adjust to such thresholds is extremely limited by the current underfunding which characterises the social care sector.
“We must not forget that care workers are front line staff and we simply cannot afford to do without them. They, together with nursing associates, must be added to the Shortage Occupation List as soon as possible.”