The government has been accused of overlooking care workers once again after announcing a free one-year UK visa extension for frontline health workers.
The move applies to eligible workers, and their dependents, whose visas are due to run out before 1 October 2021, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and midwives, with 14,000 people expected to benefit.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea (pictured) said: “Thousands of NHS workers will be relieved they don’t face hefty bills to continue providing vital services across the UK.
“Many have faced huge stresses and pushed themselves to the limit to treat and look after us all. It’s only right the government looks after them and makes their lives a little easier by granting free visas.
“But it looks like the care sector has been overlooked again. This scheme must extend to all employees in health and care, particularly the lowest paid who need this help the most.”
Raj Sehgal, managing director of ArmsCare, said: “The contribution our overseas workforce over the pandemic has been vital to the health and wellbeing of the nation and our recovery towards some form of normality.
“Although it is pleasing that the efforts of this workforce has been recognised for the NHS, it is noticeably dissapointing that the contribution of our overseas workers has once again been ignored for the social care sector, which has been instrumental in the care and protection of some the most vulnerable in our society.
“Overseas workers in the social care sector have made an equal contribution to their colleagues in the NHS and the sector needs to be recognised and respected as an equal in all healthcare services.”
Camille Leavold, MD at Abbots Care also believes the government seems to have forgotten about the contribution our care workers made to supporting vulnerable people during the pandemic.
“Social care is yet again seen as the ‘Cinderella’ service and our workforce are not prioritised in the same way as the NHS staff. Our staff should be given the same free extensions to their visas so that we can continue to support people at home as we have done throughout the pandemic,” she said.
A Home Office spokesperson said the government recognised the “significant contribution” which health and care workers from overseas have made and continue to make in the fight against coronavirus. They added that the renewal offer would benefit key health occupations working in the social care sector such as nurses, occupational therapists and social workers.
Last month, the Home Office announced that it has added senior care workers to the Shortage Occupation List, despite rejecting calls for this in October 2020.