A points-based immigration system would effectively ‘shut the door’ on thousands of people needed to shore up the social care workforce.
Responding to the Migration Advisory Committee’s report, published yesterday (29 January), The King’s Fund also said the problem of staffing in the sector had been ‘batted’ back to politicians.
The report, A Points-Based System and Salary Threshold for Immigration, advised the government to drop the salary threshold for immigrants by £4,400, from £30,000. It said a minimum salary of £25,600 would help recruit NHS and teaching staff.
The committee admitted there were mixed views on salary thresholds and that many would prefer them not to exist at all. ‘Running a business is rarely easy and salary thresholds do not make the job easier,’ it said.
As reported in 2018, visa proposals in a government white paper about the £30,000 threshold led to concerns as it would impact low-paid sectors that rely on overseas workers.
Simon Bottery, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, said: ‘By prioritising higher-paid workers, the MAC recommendations for a points-based visa system would effectively shut the door to thousands of people who are desperately needed to shore up the social care workforce.’
On social care and the struggles to recruit and retain staff, the MAC’s 278-page document said: ‘We remain of the view that the very real problems in this sector are caused by a failure to offer competitive terms and conditions, something that is itself caused by a failure to have a sustainable funding model.’
As well as the threshold, the commission was asked to review the Australian immigration system and similar ones to advise on whether it could be used to strengthen the UK labour market.
The report recommended a mixed system of retaining the existing framework for Tier 2 (general) visa, where the applicant must meet criteria, and modifying Tier 1 (exceptional talent).
Responding to the report, Nuffield Trust deputy director of policy Natasha Curry said: ‘ … on their own, these proposals would make it almost impossible for people to migrate to work in most frontline social care jobs. That is alarming because care homes and other providers already have climbing vacancy rates, and our research shows tens of thousands more staff will be needed to meet the promise of fixing a system that leaves many languishing without support.’
Danny Mortimer, co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition and chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘If social care is unable to recruit from overseas, the sector will simply not be able to meet the growth in demand, leading to significant implications for the health and wealth of the nation.
‘We are confident that the NHS is firmly in the government’s considerations but need an equal if not greater acknowledgement of the requirements for overseas colleagues to work in social care.’
National Association of Care and Support Workers added: ‘A points based system that favours academic qualifications and previous high salaries will be discriminatory to social care where specific practical training, values based recruitment and soft skills are important in delivering great care.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We will deliver on the people’s priorities by introducing a points-based immigration system from 2021 to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world, while reducing low-skilled migration and bringing overall numbers down.
‘We would like to thank the MAC for their report which we will carefully consider before setting out further detail on the UK’s future immigration system.’