Social care leaders condemn new immigration system

Social care leaders have condemned the new points-based immigration system as “a devastating blow for social care”.

The new system, which takes effect from 1 January 2021, will end free movement of workers from the EU. Instead, the system will introduce a minimum general salary of £25,600 and assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions. Work visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points.

Key features of the new system are:

  • Minimum general salary threshold of £25,600 (base salary only, excluding allowances or pension contributions, and no regional differences)
  • Applicants can ‘trade’ characteristics such as their specific job offer, shortage occupation status and qualifications against a lower salary
  • Skills threshold reduced to Regulated Qualification Framework level 3 (equivalent to  A level/level 3 NVQ in Health and Social Care  and permitted number uncapped    

The recommendations follow a report by the Migration Advisory Committee, which estimates that around 70 per cent of resident EEA citizens arriving in the UK since 2004 would become ineligible for work in the UK, based on their current (2016-18) characteristics. The MAC has described the impact at the macro level of the future loss of such workers as “small’. Currently, an estimated 170,000 recently arrived non-EU citizens are working in lower-skilled occupations.

However, to mitigate against unforeseen workforce shortages, the MAC will produce and maintain a shortage occupation list and will introduce flexibility into the system for shortage occupation workers to gain employment in the UK.

The Home Office is also urging employers to take other measures to address shortages, including investing in staff retention, productivity, and in technology and automation.  The aim, it says, is to “end the reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour coming into the country”.

EU citizens resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 can still apply to settle in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme until June 2021.

According to provider representative organisation the Independent Care Group, there are already around 120,000 unfilled vacancies in social care. Previous estimates have warned of 115,000 fewer care workers from overseas by 2026 if freedom of movement ends.
 
Commenting, group chair Mike Padgham said: “The truth is that we.. need more care staff now and we are going to need many thousands more to care for an ageing population in the future. It defies belief and increases the urgency for the Government to tackle social care.”

  • Quarterly immigration statistics for February 2020 show that EU net migration has fallen since 2016, although more EU citizens still arrive long-term than leave. The number of EU citizens coming to the UK for work-related reasons has decreased to the lowest level since 2004. However, non-EU net migration has gradually increased since 2013 and is now at the highest level since 2004.
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