Care organisations and unions have condemned “out of touch” MPs for voting in favour of the government’s controversial Immigration Bill.
The bill passed through the House of Commons earlier this week with 351 votes to 252, a majority of 99.
It will now go on to further Parliamentary scrutiny and if it receives royal assent it will repeal EU freedom of movement and pave the way for the government to introduce a new points-based system that will deny visas to so-called “low-skilled” workers.
The Migration Advisory Committee made recommendations for the new system in January, suggesting migrants will need to score points based on a range of factors, including qualifications, ability to speak English and a salary £25,600 or more.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Bill signalled the government’s commitment to delivering a “fairer and skills led immigration system”, but trade union Unison said that pushing ahead with the Bill was a triumph of “bloody-mindedness over common sense”.
UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Hundreds of thousands of care jobs are unfilled, yet the government is intent on cutting off a source of skilled workers just when the UK needs them the most.
“The pandemic has taught us that low pay doesn’t mean low-skilled. Out of touch ministers measuring value only in pounds and pence – and decreeing that those earning less than £25,600 can’t contribute – clearly have never been to a care home.
“Migrant workers have proved themselves vital to the country time and time again. To slam the door in their faces now is shameful.”
The Migration Advisory Committee has launched a six-week call for evidence, asking employers for their views on the roles that are being filled by migrant workers, the salaries they are paid and implications of potential changes.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds warned that the new immigration system sends a signal that tells people that anyone earning less than £25,600 is “unskilled and unwelcome in our country”.
He added: “Those who clapped on Thursday are only too happy to vote through a Bill today that will send a powerful message to those same people – that they are not considered by this government to be skilled workers. Are shop workers unskilled? Are refuse collectors? Are local government workers? Are NHS staff? Are care workers? Of course they are not.”
National Care Association (NCA) executive chair Nadra Ahmed OBE said: “We have been bitterly disappointed that the Home Secretary has ignored the pleas to suspend the payments that our migrant workforce have to make to have access to the NHS service which relies on them to function. It appears the irony and injustice of this has eluded the common sense of the Home Secretary and her officials.”
James Sage, partner and Head of Social Care at law firm Royds Withy King, said the bill will deliver a “punishing blow” to the country’s social care sector.