The social care sector has responded with disappointment to the announcement of new immigration details.
The new system will see a Health and Care Visa which will be part of the skilled worker route for those wishing to work in the UK. However, in an annexe that lists the jobs which will make a person eligible for this visa, no specific social care roles are mentioned.
Reacting to this announcement, James Bullion, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), stated, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has shown true value of adult social care staff to our country.
'They have put their own lives on the line to deliver skilled and compassionate care to people of all ages. To label our staff as ‘unskilled’ does not reflect the sacrifices that have been, and continue to be, made across the country.
'Social care has a vacancy rate of 122,000 and the highest turnover rate of any sector in the country. For this reason we need access to the broadest possible pool of candidates to ensure the availability of high-quality care and support services for those people that need it.
'Government must provide a sector-specific visa route enabling international recruitment into social care until such time that that reform and funding proposals have been agreed and implemented.
'As a nation we cannot, and must not, go into what could be the most challenging winter in recent history for health and social care with further uncertainty about where our workforce will come from.’
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says, 'Despite repeated calls from both adult social care and the NHS’ own representative bodies, including the Cavendish Coalition, the Government has failed to pay any dues to the sector’s specific needs, thus leaving us out in the cold. This is particularly worrying given the wider context of the instability which COVID-19 has placed upon the adult social care sector. The impending threat of the international workforce supply being turned off has the potential to de-stabilise the sector even further with potentially disastrous consequences.
'We must ensure that all efforts are made so that adult social care is perceived as a good career choice on a par with the NHS. In order to do this we need to see substantial investment from Government rather than short-term sticking plasters. There will be a continuing need for overseas staff until the Government delivers a proper workforce strategy for social care and also the money required to give the staff the salaries and conditions they richly deserve. Our staff are our best resource and we want to reward them as such.'
Karolina Gerlich, Executive Director of The Care Workers’ Charity, says it is yet another kick in the teeth for the sector.
She states, 'Every care worker is highly skilled, and a significant part of the care workforce consists of foreign care workers who spend their lives caring for our family and friends in need. The Immigration Policy is a direct insult to a hard-working sector who have risked their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic to care for those in need, sacrificing their own safety and the safety and wellbeing of their families.
'...It is unfathomable that their bravery and courage should be repaid in this way. Denying skilled and competent care workers the right to enter the country under the Health and Care Visa will heavily and irreversibly impact a sector that is already at collapse from a struggling recruitment and retention rate.
'We need to stand together and demand recognition and rights for care workers of every nation who work in the UK to support those most in need. All care workers are highly skilled and invaluable members of the workforce and should be treated as such.'
The full document with the details on immigration rules is available on the GOV.UK website.