The Migration Advisory Committee says these workers make a more positive contribution to the public finances.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its final report into European Economic Area (EEA) migration in the UK in terms of current and potential patterns of EEA migration and the impact of these patterns.
The report highlights possible issues that changes to EEA migration may cause in the social care sector, commenting on the difficulties the sector is already facing in securing its workforce, and suggesting that the Tier 2 cap is removed.
It says, ‘Social care is a sector that struggles to recruit and retain workers which is a cause for concern as demand is rising inexorably…We are concerned that special immigration schemes for social care will struggle to retain enough migrants in the sector if work in it is not made more attractive.’
The report continues, ‘The combination of rising demand, downward pressure on public spending leading to relatively low wages making many jobs relatively unattractive to resident workers and the absence of a non-EEA work-related route for the lower-skilled roles in the sector mean that this is a sector that could face even more serious problems if EEA migration was restricted.’
The report into EEA migration also notes that, ‘Migrants, particularly non-EEA but increasingly those from the EU, contribute significantly to the social care workforce…The sector’s problems are not primarily migration-related. A sustainable funding model, paying competitive wages to UK residents, would alleviate many of the recruitment and retention issues.’
Responding to the MAC’s report on the impact of EEA migration in the UK, Danny Mortimer, co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition, said, ‘We strongly support many of the policy recommendations made by this timely report, and are pleased the MAC has highlighted the social care funding crisis.
‘A key priority should be options for social care employers to hire social care workers. Currently, without an adequate provision for social care, people who should be cared for in or near their homes are left with no option but to attend A&E in already over-stretched hospitals.
‘It would be completely unacceptable to allow vital social care services to close under the strain of not having the people required to provide good care, and so we welcome the recognition that sustainable funding would drive improved pay and conditions – and make this sector a much more attractive place to work.
‘A youth mobility scheme will simply not be sufficient for a sector employing over 1.5 million people in England, of which 175,000 care workers are from abroad.
‘Of further concern is that the report does not advocate less-skilled workers schemes for any other sectors except agriculture.
‘We have consistently flagged concerns about extending the Tier 2 system to EEA nationals, so while we welcome the MAC’s recommendation the Tier 2 cap be abolished, without reforming the system beyond this, the NHS and social care will struggle to recruit the staff they need.’
Chair of the Independent Care Group, Mike Padgham said: “At the end of the day, we have a shortage of care staff in this country and we have to resolve that. The sector relies upon overseas workers, especially those coming to work from other EU countries. We know there is a huge explosion in the number of people needing care ahead of us and it is hard to see how we would operate if the number of carers from overseas was reduced.
“At the same time, the harsh reality facing care providers is not how are we going to manage in 20 years’ time but how we are going to staff our shifts tonight, tomorrow and next week.
“This is easy to resolve: start to recognize social care workers as skilled – which they are – and accept that we need to recruit more from overseas.”
It is estimated that more than 1.2m people are currently living with an unmet care need. More than a million people do receive care – either in residential homes or in their own homes. A recent report suggested the number of people requiring the highest level of round-the-clock care is to increase dramatically. It suggested that the number of people aged over 65 needing 24-hour care will rise by a third to over a million in the next 20 years. And the number of over-85s needing 24-hour care will double to 446,000 in England, by 2035.
“We are just not going to be able to cope,” Mr Padgham added. “And as a country we have to decide what we are going to do about it. We already have a frightening number of people – 1.2m and growing – who do not get the care they should and because the sector is starved of funding we are seeing care homes close and homecare agencies close or hand back unviable contracts. We can’t go on like this any longer.”