An MPs’ committee has called for all social care and NHS support staff to be included in the free NHS visa extension scheme.
The Home Affairs Committee said excluding care workers and lower paid NHS staff from the fee-free one-year visa extension was unfair and failed to recognise their contribution to the fight against COVID-19.
Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “NHS staff and social care workers have been heroes on the frontline against COVID-19 and they shouldn’t be having to wrestle with the immigration system or worry about their status or hefty visa renewal fees.
“Our NHS and social care system have relied on the contributions of those who have come from abroad throughout this crisis. Making the lowest paid of those workers pay thousands of pounds during the coronavirus crisis when they are helping and caring for everyone else is unfair and wrong.”
The committee also called on the government to offer citizenship and permanent residency to those on temporary visas in recognition of their immense contribution during the crisis.
Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: “We would support the findings of the committee. It was good to extend the visa extension list in April, but the cross party group of MPs are correct to point out that the list does not include jobs such as porters and cleaners. The committee’s recommendations make absolute sense as we must consider the whole workforce; one part of it cannot operate without the other.
“Many of the lower-paid employees have been putting their lives at risk along with doctors, nurses and others this last few months. Being added to the list is what they deserve; but, without them being on the list, the delicate structure of care and support that’s in place, to support those with and without COVID-19, could be compromised. Let’s do the right thing here and not undermine some of the successes that have been made during this pandemic.”