Care staff immigration rules relaxed

February 16, 2022

Relaxed immigration rules concerning the ability of care staff to migrate to the UK from overseas have come into force.

First announced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Christmas Eve, following a recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee, care workers have been added to the shortage occupation list for 12 months, which will allow migrants to get work visas to address staff shortages in the sector.

Migrant workers will be able to move with dependents, including partners and children, and the visa offers a path to settlement in the UK, the DHSC said.

Employers can apply to the Home Office to become sponsors, and assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker they have recruited from overseas, who can then apply to come to the UK under the visa.

Despite the relaxed immigration rules for care staff, they will have to be paid at least £20,480 a year to qualify for the visa. This is considerably higher than the current average for domestic senior care worker jobs, which the Government says is £16,900.

In response to the relaxed immigration rules coming into force for care staff, the sector has voiced its concerns that this will provide little relief from staff shortages until the issue of pay is addressed.

Mark Adams, Chief Executive of Community Integrated Care, said, 'Whilst we’re pleased to see the Government finally concede that care workers play a skilled role in society, the reality is, for most providers, this change will have little or no effect.

'If the Government truly want a high-skilled, high wage economy, then salaries have to reflect the professional standards required to deliver quality care, and local authorities must be funded by central Government to pay for this.'

Director of Care and Support at L&Q Living, Charlie Culshaw, said, ‘We welcome the Government’s attempts to address this pressing issue and fill vital vacant roles in the social care sector. The pandemic lifted the lid on the importance of good quality care provided by specialist and highly skilled staff.

‘Temporary changes to the Health and Care Worker visa may alleviate pressures for the time being, when local options are exhausted. However, recruitment and retention of staff will remain an issue in the long-term. More investment is needed to ensure the contributions, skills and commitment of our care workers are recognised and that working in social care becomes a more attractive and better paid career.

‘Additionally, the £20,480 salary requirement means that even when organisations, such as L&Q, are committed to paying the real living wage, people living outside of London will not qualify. We therefore urge the Government to lower this threshold, so that more care providers across the UK can benefit from the scheme.’

In other news, The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed that social care had the highest workforce percentage in self-isolation on 29 January.

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