The government is facing increasing calls to relax restrictions on migrant care workers to help fight a second wave of coronavirus this winter.
A Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report called for senior care workers and nursing assistants to be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), while the GMB Union has urged the government to extend NHS and care visas to avoid a winter crisis.
Chair, Professor Brian Bell, said the MAC remained “particularly concerned” that the social care sector would struggle to recruit the necessary staff during the pandemic if wages were not increased as a “matter of urgency”.
The GMB union has, meanwhile, called on the government to extend working visas for key workers that are due to expire in the coming months.
In March, the government automatically extended visas for NHS workers that were due to expire before 1 October by 12 months. The GMB has called for a further extension for all health and social care staff.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “The storm clouds are gathering; as we prepare for a second spike of coronavirus, twinned with the likely recurrence of the winter crises that have engulfed the NHS over the last decade – we could be heading towards a catastrophic winter. This looming crisis is imminently avoidable. The Government needs to act now.”
Social care workers were excluded from a new healthcare visa which comes into force on 1 January 2021.
A Government spokesperson said: “The Migration Advisory Committee has again been very clear that immigration is not the solution to addressing staffing levels in the social care sector.
“We’re helping the sector in a number of ways, including £1.5 billion more funding for adults and children’s social care in 2020-21 and a national recruitment scheme.
“We would like to thank the Migration Advisory Committee for its report, which we will consider carefully before making final decisions.”
Social care workers who are EU, other EEA or Swiss citizens, or their family members, have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The government said there had already been more than 3.6 million grants of status.
The Home Office said the disparate nature of social care made it a unique challenge when making specific visa offers, therefore, the government was showing its support and gratitude to the sector in a number of different ways, including additional funding for adult and children’s social care.
The government said it was supporting social care recruitment through the DHSC’s Care For Others – Make A Different campaign and was working with the DWP to help promote adult social care to job seekers, including those who had lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new online platform, Join Social Care, has also been launched by the DHSC.
Further information on the Health and Care Visa is available here
Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents on visa extensions is available here