Government urged to relax immigration rules for care workers to offset ‘severe’ recruitment problems

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.

The MAC’s annual report said: “We are currently in the middle of a commission investigating the impact of the ending of freedom of movement on the adult social care sector.

“We provide an update in this report on our preliminary findings and unusually are taking the opportunity to make a formal recommendation to the Government.

“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 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.

“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.”

MAC chair Professor Brian 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.

“We have outlined plans on how the Government can change their approach to short-term visas and also propose changes to address some of the challenges facing the social care sector.

“We have also considered the right to work for asylum seekers.

“The evidence is clear – the current approach delays integration and has a detrimental impact on those seeking protection.

“That is why we have recommended the Government looks again at this issue and considers granting asylum seekers the right to work while their application is pending.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “Care England has long called for care workers to be on the shortage occupation list and is therefore very pleased that the Migration Advisory Committee has put forward this very important recommendation to Government.

“There is an acute workforce shortage in adult social care now so this recommendation cannot be enacted fast enough.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rick Findler / PA.