The Home Office has rejected its own migration advisers’ recommendations to make it easier for care sector providers to employ staff from abroad under its post-Brexit immigration system.
In September the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that senior care workers and registered managers should be placed on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
However the government has said that it will not, at this point, accept the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s recommendation, which would have reduced obstacles to their recruitment from overseas under the points-based immigration system that will replace free movement for European workers in January 2021.
In a letter to MAC chair Professor Brian Bell, home secretary Priti Patel said the government would wait to assess the impact of Covid-19 on UK citizens’ employment prospects and that of the new immigration system on the labour market before revising it.
The Home Secretary said :“Before making any changes to the SOLs, we believe it is right to pause and assess how the UK labour market develops and how quickly recovery is evidenced post-Covid 19 and in response to the introduction of the new points-based immigration system, in terms of overall numbers, understanding migrant and employer behaviours, and where incoming migrants go (both geographically and by sector),” wrote Patel, who stressed she was not closing the door on the MAC’s recommendations.
The committee raised specific concerns about the impact of ending free movement on social care, saying government needed to increase funding to boost pay and tackle the sector’s chronically high turnover rates and significant vacancy numbers.
In reply the Home Secretary said: “We also want employers to prioritise and invest in those people already in the UK, a point you recognise as being of vital importance in relation to the social care sector, upskilling our current work force rather than automatically seeking to bring in the skills and talents we need from overseas.”
In a letter to James Wilde Conservative MP for North West Norfolk Raj Saghal managing director of care provider Armscare Ltd expressed his anger and frustration at the government’s decision. “I write to you to air my anger and frustration and would like to know on what basis the Government is making a decision of such magnitude if it is clearly failing to take up the advice of all recommendations to include Senior Care Workers on to the Shortage Occupation List.
“Despite every report’s recommendations and the Social Care Sector’s cry fro assistance, it is unbelievable that a Government in this day and age should ignore the advice and pleas given to it. It is a Human Rights travesty that our frail and vulnerable may be put at risk because providers up and down the country will suffer as a result of shortages in qualified caring staff.”
“A Government which puts the need of needs of the NHS ahead of the Social Care sector only serves to send out a message which states that they are more concerned about immigration statistics over the needs of our elderly in care. How many of our elderly have the luxury of time to wait for this Government to procrastinate in its decision to help this sector to provide the staff needed to care for our elderly? There is notnone single report which does not advocate the need to fill the 112,000 vacancies that exist at todays date.” The letter said
Colin Angel, policy director at the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said the government’s decision was “extremely disappointing”.
“Although the proposed expansion of the SOL would have had limited application for many social care employers, some would have found it extremely helpful in sourcing candidates from outside the UK for hard-to-fill roles, including live-in homecare,” Angel said.
He said the government has now “sent a clear message to employers that they must recruit from the domestic workforce”.
“For local councils, who buy the majority of social care services, this highlights the importance of adequate fees which will enable their subcontractors to offer competitive terms and conditions of employment,” he added.
Care England also expressed its disappointment with the decision.“Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on social care yet there is still a lack of recognition about the need for a short, medium and long-term strategy for recruitment and retention of care workers,” a spokesperson said.
“This when combined with Covid-19 workforce issues has the potential to create a perfect storm for the adult social care sector.”