Proposals by a group of MPs to reduce the number of overseas workers in the UK’s care sector could be ‘devastating’ for the industry.
Immigration specialists from within Square One Law’s employment team have seen first-hand the negative impact that the lack of workers has had on the care industry post-pandemic.
Care workers were added to the UK’s Shortage Occupation List of sectors in January 2022, a list which comprises industries without enough resident workers. This resulted in care workers becoming eligible for skilled worker visas to help fill vacancies.
Yet, despite the sector continuing to grapple with over 165,000 unfilled posts, ‘The New Conservatives’ this week urged the Prime Minister to axe the temporary scheme that grants eligibility for work visas to overseas care workers as part of their ’12-point plan’ to tackle immigration.
Should the plans go ahead, it could spell disaster for care home operators, says the law firm, especially those in the North of England where wages are less competitive than elsewhere in the UK.
Jean-Pierre van Zyl, Partner and Head of Employment at Square One Law, said: “The government is committed to tackling rising immigration but if the New Conservatives’ proposal is approved and put into action, it would further burden – quite drastically – the already struggling care sector in the UK.
“As it stands, the industry is already having to fight against a shortage of 165,000 workers and these proposals could lead to a further 80,000 workers leaving the sector. It would be absolutely devastating, not least for those in areas such as the North which have already bore the brunt of this crisis the most.”
Jean-Pierre also stated that the potential consequences on the NHS shouldn’t be overlooked, adding: “Research shows that the number of beds tied up with medically fit patients – who are fit to leave but have nowhere to go – has increased by a third since last year, so it makes you wonder how this is ever going to get any better until we have the workers to look after them.”
The proposals by the New Conservatives have also called for the minimum salary threshold for skilled worker visas to be raised to £38,000 from the current threshold of £26,200, which could cut numbers by a further 54,000.
Neil Winch, Managing Director of Newcastle-headquartered Northridge Healthcare, echoed the views of John-Pierre, claiming that such move would be ‘another blow for the struggling sector.’
He said: “Everyone is aware of the crisis currently gripping the care system in the UK. Presently, it is impossible to find the staff that we need within the country, so we have to look overseas to recruit. If this proposal by The New Conservatives was brought in, it would be another blow to an already struggling sector.”