Social care leaders have responded in “dismay” to new immigration rules, warning that they will “spell disaster” for the sector.
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.
Those coming to the UK must also already have a job offer and be able to speak English.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the reforms would give Britain “full control over who comes to this country for the first time in decades”.
But social care professionals have labelled the proposals as “irresponsible”, warning that they will exacerbate workforce shortages in the sector.
United Kingdom Homecare Association said it was “dismayed” by the decision government has made.
“Cutting off the supply of prospective careworkers under a new migration system, will pave the way for more people waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care,” a spokesperson said.
“Telling employers to adjust, in a grossly underfunded care system, is simply irresponsible.”
UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “These plans spell absolute disaster for the care sector. Care doesn’t even get a mention in the home secretary’s plans.
“Companies and councils can’t recruit enough staff from the UK so have to rely on care workers from elsewhere. But even with these migrant employees, there’s still way too few care workers to meet demand.
“Suddenly ending this desperately needed supply of labour will cause huge problems across the country. The government simply has to think again.”
The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), which represents disability support charities, also believes the proposals will create instability in the social care labour market.
VODG chief executive Dr Rhidian Hughes said: “These hugely concerning proposals by government will only exacerbate workforce shortages in social care. Employers are already struggling to recruit and retain staff due to chronic underfunding in the sector.
“Central government now needs to significantly strengthen investment in the sector. Without that investment we should be in no doubt that in some geographical areas where organisations are struggling to secure staff, these proposals will signal the end of essential social care services.”
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We are concerned that these proposals from the Government will not meet the health and care needs of the population.
“They close the door to lower-paid healthcare support workers and care assistants from overseas, who currently fill significant numbers of posts in the health and care workforce.”