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26th Feb, 2020

Leonie Goldson
Leonie Goldson
Job Title
National Development Manager

With recruiting problems already rife in the care sector, many care leaders are questioning if Britain can afford to implement the government’s proposed skills-based immigration policy, given it could put care for the elderly and vulnerable at risk.

Recruiting care professionals to stay long-term is a challenge for many employers in the sector. It can be difficult to find staff to suit specific needs, particularly if you’re looking for flexible support services. With so much discussion centred on the new immigration policy, perhaps now is the perfect opportunity to re-emphasise the value of care work.

Unable to meet demand

Only around 1.6 million people are currently employed in the care sector in the UK according to Skills for Care, an independent charity working as a delivery partner for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). However, its 2019 report revealed there’s still a shortage of 110,000 staff, with a staggering 440,000 care workers leaving their job every year.

Given the UK’s ageing population, the demand for a social care workforce will only continue to grow. However, the government’s recent plans for a skills-based immigration system post-Brexit has caused even bigger concerns for the care sector.

A skills-based proposal

Under the government’s proposal, free movement of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals will end on 1 January 2021, to be replaced with a single route for ‘skilled workers’ to join the UK from all countries. This new system would be open to all occupations, with migrants needing to have a skill level of RQF3 and above – subject to a salary threshold of £26,500.

While the intent of the new immigration policy is to end ‘low-skilled labour migration’, social care would be one of the biggest areas hit. Skills for Care found that 18% of the social care workforce is currently made up of migrant workers. Of those, 8% are non-British European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and 10% from elsewhere in the world.

Many care leaders say they will struggle to recruit staff if the new system is implemented, putting the entire care system at greater risk. The proposed system would mean many current migrant care workers would be ineligible for entry to Britain, with their work being classified as ‘unskilled’. Very few social care professionals would meet the proposed salary threshold besides senior carers – some care staff earn as little as £16,000, according to the National Association of Care and Support Workers (NACAS).

The government has not set a specific route for ‘low-skilled’ workers to be able to seek employment in the UK. Instead, it will create a temporary visa for ‘low-skilled’ workers, allowing people to live and work in the UK for a maximum of 12 months, with limited rights. While this could maintain the migrant social care workforce, the quality of care delivered could suffer, with an ever-changing pool of short-term migrant care workers.

Emphasising the value of social care work

It’s important to stress the value and importance of care work. Entire communities depend on the hard work of carers, which Reed Community Care helps to support. While it is important to recruit the right people for the role, care work can be learned by anyone with the right attitude and a caring nature.

The DHSC launched a national adult social care recruitment campaign in 2019, to encourage more people to consider jobs in the care sector, and inspire employers to get involved. The campaign is also bringing attention to adult social care, highlighting the personal and professional rewards of working in this growing sector, and improving public perceptions of what working in social care is all about. 

It’s important to recognise that, while the government has labelled care work as ‘low-skilled’, working in care carries huge responsibility, due to working with some of the most vulnerable members of society. It’s for this very reason that we ensure care staff have passed thorough background checks before being placed.

Care work does also offer career development as well as great job satisfaction. At Reed Community Care, we support care staff with continuous professional development, including internal and external training programmes, to ensure care workers deliver high-quality care in any setting.

Ultimately, the government clearly needs to respond to the growing concerns over recruiting migrant care workers, but it also must be careful not to minimise the importance of care work in the process.

Are you looking for your next care role, or are searching for care staff who can provide you with the right support? If so, contact one of Reed's community care consultants at one of our offices in Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Cambridge and London.