The Care Workers Charity has described government immigration plans as ‘yet another kick in the teeth’ for the care sector.
On Monday, the Government confirmed that social care workers do not qualify for the government’s new health and care visa to be used under the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. The visa is designed to fast-track entry to the UK for those with a job offer in the NHS, but those looking to work in the care sector have not been included in the plans.
Under the new immigration scheme that is set to come into effect on January 1, 2021, visa applicants must have been offered a job by an approved sponsor (20 points) which is at an appropriate skill level (20 points). They must also speak English to the required level (10 points) and earn a salary of at least £20,480.
As well as meeting the above criteria, applicants must gain at least 20 further points to have a total of at least 70 points on the points-based system. Points may be awarded under the system for meeting the following criteria;
|Salary of £23,040 – £25,599||10|
|Salary of £25,600 or above||20|
|Offer in a job in a shortage occupation (as determined by the Migration Advisory Committee)||20|
|PhD qualification in a subject relevant to the job offer||10|
|PhD in a STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) subject relevant to the job offer||20|
Under the system, there are some exceptions, such as for Irish citizens who will continue to be able to live in and enter the UK. Artists, entertainers and musicians will still be able to perform at UK events and take part in competitions for up to six months.
When the immigration scheme was announced in February, the government promised a fast-track visa scheme for foreign doctors and nurses to work in the NHS. The announcement on Monday confirmed that care workers will be excluded from the scheme.
Karolina Gerlich, Executive Director of The Care Workers Charity said that there had been hopes that care workers would be recognised more for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the government’s statement on immigration was ‘very disappointing’. Ms Gerlich said;
“Post-Brexit immigration plans by the government confirmed today that care workers are not classified as Skilled Workers and are not listed as a profession that qualifies for a Health and Care Visa.
“Every care worker is highly skilled and a significant part of the care workforce consists of foreign care workers who spend their lives caring for our family and friends in need. The Immigration Policy is a direct insult to a hard-working sector who have risked their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic to care for those in need, sacrificing their own safety and the safety and wellbeing of their families.
“Care Workers were on the frontline during Covid-19 fighting a seemingly losing battle but never once wavering or giving up on those in need despite the overwhelming pressure and undesirable conditions. Some lost their lives, lost their loved ones, people they care for, financial stability, their mental health has even been affected. The consequences of Covid-19 have left scars that may never heel and yet they are still out there on the frontline.
“It is unfathomable that their bravery and courage should be repaid in this way. Denying skilled and competent care workers the right to enter the country under the Health Care Visa will heavily and irreversibly impact a sector that is already at collapse from a struggling recruitment and retention rate.
Social Care cannot continue to be crippled this way, it is already at breaking point and these new measures will only serve to worsen the conditions it is already facing.”
Posting on Twitter, Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK described the decision by the government to exclude social care workers from the visa plans as “patently the wrong decision”.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary said, “The latest papers on the proposed immigration system confirm that the Tories do not consider carers as skilled workers. Have they learned nothing from this crisis?”
Unions have also expressed concerns that the visa is set to exclude social care workers, but the Home Secretary Priti Patel has said employers will be encouraged to invest in workers from within the UK.