Government has today announced a points-based immigration system that will come into effect from 1st January 2021, ending free movement of people.
The new system will mean that 'skilled workers' will be required to meet a number of relevant criteria, including the ability to speak English, to be able to work in the UK. All applicants will be required to have a job offer and, in line with the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations, the minimum salary threshold will be set at £25,600.
A policy statement released by Government sets out how it intends that the system will work. It states that the Immigration Bill will, 'Bring in a firm and fair points-based system that will attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services. We intend to create a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy.'
The policy statement goes on to say, 'We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust.'
The social care sector has responded with dismay. Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) says that it is extremely concerned about Government’s points-based immigration proposals, stating that it believes these proposals will create instability in the social care labour market. If implemented, the proposals mean that no one can enter the country to take a care worker role at a time when the sector is chronically short of staff, says VODG.
The organisation's Chief Executive, Dr Rhidian Hughes said, 'These hugely concerning proposals by Government will only exacerbate workforce shortages in social care. Employers are already struggling to recruit and retain staff due to chronic under-funding in the sector.
'Central Government now needs to significantly strengthen investment in the sector. Without that investment we should be in no doubt that in some geographical areas where organisations are struggling to secure staff, these proposals will signal the end of essential social care services.'
VODG also echoes the thoughts of many other sector leaders, that social care work is becoming more skilled and specialised and Government’s proposals fail to recognise this.
National Care Forum (NCF) has also released a statement, saying that the points-based immigration system will close the door on recruiting care and support workers from outside the UK.
It states, 'The Government’s proposal today is deeply disheartening for all those in the care sector or supported by the care sector. It also has huge implications for the NHS and wider health and care system as it will affect our ability to deliver timely, high-quality care for millions of our vulnerable people.
'The Government has ignored all the evidence about the current pressures on the care workforce – 122,000 vacancies on any given day – and the realities of the challenge...And whilst it has taken some of the advice of the MAC in terms of reducing salary thresholds, this is of little help to social care, as the £25,600 threshold exceeds the annual pay of front-line care staff.
'Without a sustainable funding model for social care from the Government, the ambition to pay our highly-skilled workforce more is simply not possible. And, the assumption that low pay equates to low skill does not reflect the huge value our care workers bring – compassion, care and resilience cannot be demonstrated by a PhD or automated.
'The immigration proposals for both the NHS and social care call for an immediate rethink: the new immigration system needs to use the points-based system to award extra points for care worker roles and give a 3-year visa for care workers. Don’t miss this opportunity to support social care, not pile more pressure on it.'
Colin Angel, Policy Director, at United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) commented, 'We are dismayed by the decision Government has made. Cutting off the supply of prospective care workers under a new migration system will pave the way for more people waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care. Telling employers to adjust, in a grossly under-funded care system, is simply irresponsible.'