The government announced yesterday the details of the new points-based immigration system for skilled workers to the UK.
Unfortunately, the new system fails to address the spiralling recruitment crisis within social care, and will compound the problems of a sector that is already on its knees.
Today in UK social care, there is a shortfall of 120,000 workers in social care with 17% of jobs performed by non-UK citizens. Excluding foreign care workers from UK work will have significant consequences on our ability to provide care to our most vulnerable.
But how does the new points based immigration system work and what is its direct effect on social care?
What is the new system?
Broadly the principle of the new immigration system is to remove the automatic right for free movement of people from the EEA to the UK. From January 1st 2021, this free movement will be replaced by a system that treats all global migrants equally. The new immigration policy also replaces the current ‘Tier 2’ visa system.
From January 1st, entry to the UK will be restricted on the main grounds of salary, qualifications and skill level with exemptions for jobs on the shortage occupations list.
How does the points system work for skilled workers?
A total of 70 points are required to qualify for a visa. These point are awarded from a combination of three mandatory requirements alongside a handful of ‘tradeable’ requirements.
There are three mandatory criteria for all ‘Skilled Workers’ entering the country. Fulfilment of these mandatory criteria grant the applicant 50 points.
- The worker must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor
- The job must be above a minimum skill level (RQF3 level/A level equivalent)
- The applicant must speak English to a minimum standard
There is some complexity to the supporting tradable points system but it is largely based on salary levels. Applicants can earn a further 20 points by:
- Having a salary of more than £25,600 per annum
- Being a shortage occupation AND earning at least £20,480
You can find more details of the points based system in the government document here.
What about the Health and Care Visa?
The Health and Care Visa enables those with a job offer for a ‘skilled’ health and care job to access a fast track visa system with reduced fees.
Currently the list of ‘skilled’ jobs includes but is not limited to nurses, podiatrists, physiotherapists and social workers. Crucially the list does not include care workers.
How are care workers excluded?
Care workers are excluded from the system on the basis of the skill level seen in the mandatory entry requirements. Senior care workers, however, do fulfil the minimum skill level criteria.
Despite this, almost all senior care workers will fall down on the tradable points section of the entry requirements.
As care workers are not defined as a shortage occupation they must reach the salary threshold of £25,600. With an average annual salary of £19,000, this is a significant gap to close.
The decision comes at a time for particular pressure on the sector and it is lamentable to see the government unable to follow up their rhetoric on the importance of the sector with tangible action.
The response from the government says that they expect to close the 120,000 social care vacancy gap with UK employees attracted to the sector through improved pay and job prospects. However, with a funding settlement a long way off, there is no tangible evidence of how or when this can be achieved.
At Florence, we would like to see a system that appreciates the skill and necessity of the caring workforce. It would be an easy step for the Migration Advisory Committee to reflect this in their decision making.
Notwithstanding the above, the treasury must arrive at a decent funding settlement for social care in order to give care workers the salary and career progression that they so sorely deserve.