Care providers able to recruit from overseas after relaxation of immigration rules comes into force

Social care providers will be able to recruit overseas workers to fill vacancies under relaxed immigration rules that came into force on Tuesday.

Care workers have been added to the shortage occupation list after a decision first announced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Christmas Eve.

The decision followed a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that the jobs be made eligible for the health and care visa and placed on the list, which is designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.

This was called for “immediately” to temper “severe and increasing difficulties” the sector was facing with recruitment and retention, the MAC said in mid-December.

Confirming the changes came into force on Tuesday, a Government spokeswoman said: “Ahead of the changes coming into force, we’ve started an ambitious package of reform of the sponsorship system and we’re supporting employers new to the system to navigate it.

“We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad. Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

“We are doing everything we can to support the incredibly hardworking care staff by including investing £462.5 million in workforce recruitment and retention funds, expanding the health and care visa scheme and promoting our ‘Made with Care’ recruitment campaign.”

The Independent Care Group, which represents providers in York and north Yorkshire, welcomed the move but said it was already plagued by bureaucracy.

Chairman Mike Padgham said providers are “experiencing lengthy delays in getting the licences needed to recruit staff, which is the last thing we need”.

He continued: “We need these staff to provide care today and tomorrow, not some time in the future when the bureaucracy is sorted out. The Government needs to streamline this process, or we will be no better off.

“This obstacle should never have been put in our way in the first place. But then once a decision had been taken to remove it, we should not have had to wait this long – it was announced on Christmas Eve after all.

“Now we are finding that there are further delays. It is simply not acceptable for a sector that is on its knees already.

“The people who need care and those providing it deserve better than this.”

In December, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the measure would help to “ensure short-term sustainability” as he also urged care workers to get vaccinated.

He said: “I also urge all care staff yet to do so to come forward to get boosted now to protect themselves and those they care for.”

Care workers and carers from overseas will be able to move with dependents, including partners and children, and the visa offers a path to settlement in the UK, the DHSC said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The care sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges prompted by the pandemic and the changes we’ve made to the health and care visa will bolster the workforce and help alleviate some of the pressures currently being experienced.”

Last year’s announcement came after campaigners accused the Government of excluding care workers from its new immigration system and ignoring the role they have played during the coronavirus pandemic.

Care providers are experiencing high vacancy rates and turnover, and pressure on staffing is being exacerbated by the recent spread of Omicron.

The temporary measures will be in place for a minimum of 12 months.

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