Barriers on hiring overseas workers ‘would cause huge difficulties in social care’

Putting up barriers on hiring staff from overseas in an overhaul of the immigration system would cause “huge difficulties” in social care, a union has warned.

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the country’s immigration system has “got to work for social care” but the latest recommendations would not “allow a single care worker to come to the UK”.

Her comments came after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the Government, warned the proposals were “not perfect” and there were “unavoidable, difficult trade-offs”, adding: “The largest impacts will be in low-wage sectors and the Government needs to be clear about its plans for lower-skilled work migration.”

Ms McAnea (pictured) said: “The sector is already in crisis. Placing barriers to recruitment from overseas would cause it huge difficulties.

“Nor would the Government’s idea of a one-year visa be any better. By the time care staff have arrived and settled into their jobs, it’d be time for them to leave.

“All their experience and training would be lost, and migrant workers would face uncertainty and instability.

“The elderly and vulnerable people they support would also be left anxious and have their care disrupted.

“The Government can no longer duck its responsibility to reform social care. If wages were increased and training improved, people who already live and work in the UK might start to see care as an attractive career option.”

Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), welcomed the proposed changes to the visa system but said the salary threshold “should be even lower to address the skills needs of businesses who need labour at all pay levels.

“Skills shortages are one of the biggest problems facing the UK economy. We need an immigration system that can solve this.

“A flexible route into the country for temporary workers of all skill levels means that workers can move into sectors and geographies where they are needed without being tied to a particular employer.”

Denis Kierans, researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said the proposals for non-EU workers were a “clear liberalisation”, but for EU workers the plans were “much more restrictive” – making fewer people eligible to come to the UK – more bureaucratic and more expensive.

He added: “It’s likely that for many employers, the biggest deterrent from bringing in foreign workers will not be the salary thresholds, but the cost and bureaucracy of the process.”

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “A new immigration system that is fair and sustainable from day one is as important for many firms as our future trading relationships.

“Reducing the headline salary threshold will be welcomed by businesses, which argued that a £30,000 cap would be damaging.

“Yet even with a commitment to world-class business training, it remains unclear how firms can hire for mid-skilled roles such as LGV drivers, joiners and lab technicians who don’t meet the £25,600 test.

“Flexibility will be needed to build a system that lets wages rise where there are shortages while helping businesses to access the skills and labour needed to grow all parts of the UK.”

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