Government relaxes immigration rules on care-worker jobs

Government relaxes immigration rules on care-worker jobs

December 24, 2021

Government relaxes immigration rules on care-worker jobs in a bid to temper ‘severe and increasing difficulties’ in attracting and keeping social care sector staff

  • Foreign care workers will soon be added to the UK’s shortage occupation list 
  • List helps migrants get work visas to fill jobs in areas where there are shortages
  • It comes after health bosses warned of care home closures and severe job gaps

The Government is to relax immigration rules on care-worker jobs in a bid to help tackle the ongoing staffing crisis rocking the UK’s social care sector.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed care workers will be added to the shortage occupation list – designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.

The decision follows a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that the jobs be made eligible for the health and care visa.

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

The recommendation was sparked by preliminary findings from an independent review by MAC on the effect ending freedom of movement after Brexit is having on the social care sector and its workers.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the measure would help to ‘ensure short-term sustainability’ as he also urged care workers to get vaccinated.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) said the plan will ‘alleviate some of the pressures’ on the care sector

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed care workers will be added to the shortage occupation list – designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages (file photo) 

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.’

The announcement 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.

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

This week, the chief executive of MHA – the UK’s largest charitable care provider – called for local councils to set out how they would support care if shortages worsened.

Frontline health and social care workers MUST be vaccinated against Covid-19  

Since November 11, health and social care providers in England have been required to ensure workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they are exempt, under plans announced by the Health and Social Care Secretary. 

The regulations apply to health and social care workers who have direct, face-to-face contact with people while providing care – such as doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers, unless they are exempt.

They also apply to ancillary staff such as porters or receptionists who may have social contact with patients but are not directly involved in their care. 

This applies across the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated health and social care sector.

To give all staff enough time to be fully vaccinated, the deadline is April 2022. 

While the policy did not apply to COVID-19 boosters or the flu vaccine at the time, the government said it would keep this under review, and if necessary, bring forward amendments to the regulations. 

Source: Gov.uk 

Sam Monaghan said: ‘While we have contingencies in place and colleagues are great at covering shifts, we have to be assured that if the worst happens and we don’t have enough people to care for our residents safely, that there are plans in place to support us.’

The provider, which employs around 7,500 staff, said it had twice as many vacancies as usual, and twice as many staff absent.

Around a fifth of its homes (17) are closed to new admissions because of the shortages.

It comes after the National Care Forum, which represents companies that provide home helps, warned in late October that firms had turned down nearly 5,000 requests for help over the previous six weeks.

It joined union Unison to demand the Health Secretary take urgent action to tackle the ‘recruitment and retention emergency’ in the care sector.

They co-signed a letter warning of a staffing crisis triggered by ‘chronic underfunding leading to low wages, staff burnout, and mandatory vaccination’. 

Shortages are at ‘a magnitude that threaten to overwhelm the sector,’ they said. 

Both demanded a pay boost to improve recruitment and a retention bonus for those who have ‘gone above and beyond in the delivery of care during the darkest of times’.

The letter says: ‘Care providers are already having to hand back contracts, turn down new requests for care, at home and in care homes, as a direct result of the acute shortage of workers. 

‘The Government must act now because social care matters to us all. This country cannot afford to lose any more care staff. 

‘Each and every one of us has a loved one who may well need their skill, support and compassion, or require help themselves eventually. Please don’t ignore this catastrophe a moment longer.’

The letter also urged the Government to scrap or delay mandatory jabs in care homes.

Since November 11, health and social care providers in England have been required to ensure workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they are exempt. 

Researchers for NCF and the Outstanding Managers Network found that nearly a fifth of positions were vacant, with backroom staff having to fill in as frontline carers. 

More than two-thirds said they were having to stop or limit services. These pressures mean having to turn away patients, including those being discharged from hospital.

One manager said it was ‘heartbreaking turning down ten-plus packages of care that are needed a day’. 

Another said: ‘Sadly, we have not got enough staff to look after them safely’, while another was ‘seriously considering having to close’.

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