Sector leaders have warned that the government’s new Health and Care Visa will do little to solve the ‘staffing blackhole’ in the social care industry.
The Home Office published details yesterday (13 July) of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which will come into effect on 1 January 2021.
The system includes a new Health and Care Visa for key health professionals, which according to the government will ‘make it easier and cheaper for health professionals to work in the UK’.
The visa will be open to people working in certain health care professions, including pharmacists, nurses and social workers, but not care home workers.
Speaking in parliament, the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds clashed with his government counterpart, when he said the government had omitted carers from the list of professions who qualify for the visa.
‘After the Prime Minister accused care workers of not following the guidance on COVID-19, and now this, will the home secretary please answer a simple question: what do the government have against care workers?’ asked Mr Thomas-Symonds.
The home secretary Pritti Patel was not available, but Home Office minister Kevin Foster took his question in the House.
‘Senior care workers will qualify under the new points-based system,’ replied Mr Foster.
‘People will look at what has happened over the past few months and surely they will not think that our vision for the social care sector should be to carry on looking abroad to recruit at or near the minimum wage. We need to be prioritising jobs in this country.’
The president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), James Bullion, commented: ‘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, and continue to be, made across the country,’ he added.
‘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.’
While the chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, said: ‘We are facing the risk of a staffing blackhole in social care, with one in five health and care workers having said they are likely to leave their roles after the pandemic. A solution is urgently needed.
‘It is critical that the government ensures a transitional solution is in place for social care that supports international recruitment from January 2021 to navigate the gap between the introduction of the new immigration system and a longer term plan and funding settlement for social care in England.’
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