The UK Government is facing more pressure to include care workers on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) over fears that the new immigration system would leave the sector “critically short of staff”.
Ben Macpherson, Minister for Public Finance and Migration for Scottish Parliament, said the contribution of non-UK citizens working in health and social care has been brought into sharp focus during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
He said social care roles must now be added to the SOL, in order to prevent a labour shortage in this “crucial sector”.
The Minister’s comments follow a new report from the Scottish Government, which highlights that the social work and care sectors are heavily reliant on migrants, with almost 10% of roles filled by workers from outside the UK, the majority of whom would not qualify for a visa under the so-called ‘skilled worker’ route currently being proposed by the UK Government.
Macpherson said: “Care professionals from all over the world have played a vital role in caring for our communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
“It is mind-boggling that the UK Government has introduced a ‘Health and Care visa’, intended to show the UK’s gratitude to frontline workers in these sectors, but that this initiative bizarrely continues to exclude and disregard the huge contribution of social care workers.”
The Minister urged the government to “do the right thing” and include care workers as eligible for the recently announced Health and Care visa so that migrant care workers can benefit from reduced fees, a fast-track application service, and exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
He added: “This report, responding to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on the UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL), shows how the UK Government’s ending of freedom of movement, and no replacement general route for what they have wrongly and offensively deemed ‘lower-skilled’ migrants, will be damaging to social care provision and key Scottish sectors of the Scottish economy. Adding social care roles to the SOL would allow employers to recruit international workers at a lower salary threshold of £20,480, instead of the proposed £25,600.
“The Scottish Government is clear – we greatly value the skills and contributions of all people who come and settle in Scotland. Inward migration enriches our society for the better and migrants make a net contribution to our economy, our public services and our public finances. Family migration also contributes positively to our demography, and the sustainability of rural and remote communities.”
The Welsh Government is also urging the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to include social care workers on the SOL.
Responding to the MAC’s call for evidence on the SOL, the government said it “strongly opposes” the UK government’s proposals on future migration and urged ministers to pause their plans.