Social care workers have been excluded from a new healthcare visa announced by the government today.
After Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled details of the visa within a new points-based immigration system which comes into force from 1 January next year.
A government spokesperson said: “The Migration Advisory Committee is clear that immigration is not the answer to the challenges in the social care sector.
“We want employers to focus on investing in our domestic work force, which is why a national recruitment campaign was recently launched.
“However, from January 2021 senior care workers who meet the criteria will be able to come to the UK through the Skilled Workers route in the new Points-Based Immigration System. Additionally, the EU Settlement Scheme means that all EU and EAA citizens, and their family members, currently working in social care can stay in the UK and we are encouraging them to do so.”
The government’s announcement was greeted with fury by care leaders.
Independent Care Group (ICG) Chair Mike Padgham said: “In the last few months social care has demonstrated the vital role it plays in caring for people in this country. But that has been ignored in today’s announcement.
“In granting this visa to NHS workers but not to social care workers the government has again demonstrated how it treats social care as the poor relation. We hoped that might have changed but clearly it hasn’t.
“For the government to say that people already here can remain and provide ‘really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable’ but then say no more can come, beggars belief.
“This has not been thought through and is another kick in the teeth for social care.”
James Bullion, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), added: “Social care has a vacancy rate of 122,000 and the highest turnover rate of any sector in the country. For this reason we need access to the broadest possible pool of candidates to ensure the availability of high quality care and support services for those people that need it.
“Government must provide a sector-specific visa route enabling international recruitment into social care until such time that that reform and funding proposals have been agreed and implemented.
“As a nation we cannot, and must not, go into what could be the most challenging winter in recent history for health and social care with further uncertainty about where our workforce will come from.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, added: “We must ensure that all efforts are made so that adult social care is perceived as a good career choice on a par with the NHS. In order to do this we need to see substantial investment from government rather than short term sticking plasters. There will be a continuing need for overseas staff until the government delivers a proper workforce strategy for social care and also the money required to give the staff the salaries and conditions they richly deserve. Our staff are our best resource and we want to reward them as such.”
Karolina Gerlich, Executive Director of The Care Workers Charity, said the government’s statement was “very disappointing” and 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”.