| 6.1°C Belfast

Government urged to relax immigration rules for care workers

The move would temper the ‘severe and increasing difficulties’ the sector is facing with recruitment and retention, advisers said.

Close

Government advisers are calling for care worker jobs to be put on the shortage occupation list (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Government advisers are calling for care worker jobs to be put on the shortage occupation list (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Government advisers are calling for care worker jobs to be put on the shortage occupation list (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Immigration rules on care worker jobs should be relaxed “immediately” to temper “severe and increasing difficulties” the sector is facing with recruitment and retention, Government advisers have said.

In its annual report, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which briefs the Government on immigration, advised that the jobs be made eligible for the Health and Care Visa and placed on the shortage occupation list (SOL).

The SOL is designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.

The recommendation has been sparked by preliminary findings from an independent review from the MAC on the effect ending freedom of movement after Brexit is having on the social care sector and its workers.

It comes after campaigners last year accused the Government of excluding care workers from its new immigration system and ignoring the role they have played during the coronavirus pandemic.

We provide an update in this report on our preliminary findings and unusually are taking the opportunity to make a formal recommendation to the GovernmentMigration Advisory Committee report

The MAC’s annual report said: “Given the severe and increasing difficulties the sector is facing in terms of both recruitment and retention, we are recommending that care worker jobs immediately be made eligible for the Health and Care Visa and placed on the shortage occupation list.”

The committee said that, while it did not believe immigration policy could solve all – or even most – of the sector’s workforce problems, it could “potentially help to alleviate the difficulties” in the short term.

The MAC also advised the Government to “review the ban on employment for asylum seekers”.

“There is clear evidence of the harm that this causes, some of which we document in this report, and little evidence that we are aware of that it provides significant benefits,” the MAC said.

Close

Government advisers have called for immigration rules on care worker jobs to be relaxed ‘immediately’ Peter Byrne/PA)

Government advisers have called for immigration rules on care worker jobs to be relaxed ‘immediately’ Peter Byrne/PA)

PA

Government advisers have called for immigration rules on care worker jobs to be relaxed ‘immediately’ Peter Byrne/PA)

“The harm is exacerbated by the increasing numbers of asylum seekers who are having to wait over six months for an initial decision on their application.”

As it stands, people are generally barred from working in the UK while their asylum claims are pending.

If they are still waiting for a decision after 12 months, they may apply for permission to work – but they can only take jobs on the SOL.

The MAC argued in its annual report that this can cause asylum seekers to become “disengaged” with the market, making it harder for them to integrate if their claims are successful.

The committee said the Home Office had “tended to argue for an employment ban for asylum seekers due to the so-called ‘pull factor’”.

“The argument is that asylum seekers may choose to come to the UK over other safe countries because of the attractiveness of the labour market,” it said.

It can't possibly be the case that the Government is just making that statement without any evidence. So it must be the case there's evidenceProf Brian Bell, MAC chairman

But in a briefing with journalists on Wednesday, MAC chairman Professor Brian Bell said that the Government had so far produced no evidence to support this assertion.

“It is incumbent, I think on all of us, including politicians, if they’re going to make an argument that says there is a very substantial pull factor that the employment ban is protecting us from, then there must be evidence that that is true,” he said.

“It can’t possibly be the case that the Government is just making that statement without any evidence. So it must be the case there’s evidence.

“We’re just saying why not publish that evidence, make it available so that we and others can review it and scrutinise it and compare it with the clear evidence that’s already been published on the harm an employment ban presents to us.”

The harm is exacerbated by the increasing numbers of asylum seekers who are having to wait over six months for an initial decision on their applicationMigration Advisory Committee report

He added: “As it happens, they have on a number of occasions been asked for this and as I understand it have not published anything.”

Professor Bell also questioned the value of the current policy that asylum seekers still awaiting a decision after a year can only take jobs on the SOL.

“It would be slightly odd to ease the ban, and then say ‘but it can only be in the shortage occupation list’,” he said.

“There’s no particular reason to think that the shortage occupation list matches very well with the skills and qualifications of asylum seekers. So I’m not sure that would be very beneficial.”

He added that the Government could utilise the asylum workforce to fill vacancies in the social care sector.

Close

MAC chair Professor Brian Bell called for more evidence from the Home Office that allowing asylum seekers to work would be a ‘pull factor’ to the UK (Aaron Chown/PA)

MAC chair Professor Brian Bell called for more evidence from the Home Office that allowing asylum seekers to work would be a ‘pull factor’ to the UK (Aaron Chown/PA)

PA

MAC chair Professor Brian Bell called for more evidence from the Home Office that allowing asylum seekers to work would be a ‘pull factor’ to the UK (Aaron Chown/PA)

“I think potentially the Government could… move on employment for asylum seekers, and actually try and focus attention on the social care sector – that would be to the benefit of everyone,” he said.

In a statement accompanying the launch of the annual report, Professor Bell said: “Short-term fixes are not always the solution for the UK economy, however they can be important in ensuring sectors with urgent needs can access the staff they need quickly.”

On the right to work for asylum seekers, he said: “The evidence is clear – the current approach delays integration and has a detrimental impact on those seeking protection.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said the organisation was “very” pleased that the MAC had recommended care worker jobs were added to the SOL.

The Homecare Association also said it “strongly” endorsed the suggestion.

Chief executive Dr Jane Townson said: “Changes to migration policy are needed urgently, as part of a wider range of approaches to increasing workforce capacity, to help ensure we have sufficient committed and skilled care workers to provide the quality of support we and our loved ones expect and deserve.”

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, called for the immigration rules to be relaxed “now”.

He said: “It can’t come soon enough, because we are on our knees, particularly with this new variant. If people have to isolate… we’ll be saying we can’t keep these homes open. So it can’t come too soon really.”

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required


Top Videos



Privacy