Immigration policy will result in ‘black hole’ of almost 500,000 care workers, union warns

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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, a trade union has warned.

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.

New ONS analysis requested by the GMB Union reveals that more than 350,000 adult care workers were born outside the UK in the year to September 2019 – a figure that has risen by 43% in the past decade.

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About 115,000 care workers are originally from an EU country and 237,000 workers were born outside the EU. 

Coupled with the 110,000 vacancies, GMB said that this could leave the UK facing a 460,000 care worker vacancy crisis.

The new points-based system – to be introduced from January 2021 – is intended to end dependence on “cheap labour from Europe”, the government said.

The system will deny visas to so-called “low-skilled” workers and the salary threshold for migrants will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “Care in the UK is facing almost a 500,000 person black hole thanks to the Government’s insulting immigration policy and failure to properly fund the sector.

“For the likes of Home Secretary to brand the care workers our whole society relies on as ‘low-skilled’ is a bit rich and has caused stress and anxiety for people who do an outstanding job day in, day out.

“For too long care workers have faced inadequate rates of pay, lack of recognition for their skills, and denial of opportunities for progression. We are determined to defend our members of all nationalities when their jobs are under threat.”

Responding to GMB’s warning, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The Migration Advisory Committee has been clear that immigration is not the solution to addressing staffing levels in the social care sector. Senior care workers who meet the criteria will still be able to come to the UK through the points-based system.

“We are working alongside employers to ensure the workforce has the right number of people to meet increasing demands and have recently launched a national recruitment campaign. “We are also providing councils with access to an additional £1.5 billion for adults and children’s social care in 2020-21.”

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Sarah Clarke

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