Senior care workers have been added to the Shortage Occupation List in an apparent government U-turn.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended in September that senior care workers be placed on the list, enabling them to have an advantage in obtaining a skilled worker visa.
This call was later rejected by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said she would not follow the guidance of the MAC review, but wait to access the combined impact of both coronavirus and the new immigration rules.
However, the Home Office announced rule changes last week, stating that senior care workers, along with pharmacists and laboratory technicians, would be added to the SOL.
The news means that the salary threshold for these roles would be reduced to £20,480 from £25,600.
Twenty points will also be allocated and go towards the total of 70 points needed to be eligible to work in the UK.
Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster said: “Every year we welcome healthcare workers from across the world to our United Kingdom, with many having played a key role on the frontline of the NHS during the recent pandemic. This latest set of changes, combined with our Health and Care Visa, will ensure they can easily get the immigration status they deserve.”
Commenting on the news, James Wild MP said: “This is a welcome decision to help address short term issues with recruitment. In recent months, I have spoken to the Home Secretary and Minister for Immigration on many occasions about the calls from the sector to be able to recruit senior care workers internationally. As well as adding this route, it is right that the government has launched a campaign to encourage more people to consider a career in caring.”
Care England CEO Professor Martin Green told HCI: “I am pleased that the government has acknowledged the challenges of recruiting social care managers and have added them to the shortage occupation list. Care England has been lobbying on this issue for a long time and it is good to see this lobbying is bearing fruit.”
He added: “We hope that this is the start of a process towards the creation of a migration system which supports rather than undermines the development of the adult social care workforce. Our staff are our best resource and we will do all we can to protect, recognise and champion them.”
Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chairman of the National Care Association, said: “NCA has campaigned tirelessly over the past three years to ensure that migrant recruitment into social care remained an option to the sector as Brexit impacted. Our preference will always be to recruit from a domestic workforce, as it remains the most effective and sustainable route.
“However, as vacancy rates show no sign of improving and the demographic indicate a clear need for more staff, it was imperative that the HO listened to our concerns and the advice of their own experts who form the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
“We hope that the visa routes are accessible for our sector and there are no hidden barriers to what will be seen as a welcome step from the Home Secretary by social care providers.”
The Home Office is yet to comment on the reasons for the rule change.