Charging social care volunteers for visas will lead to vital support being lost, organisations have warned
Voluntary organisations are calling for the vital support offered by international volunteers to be protected.
Last year, Westminster set out plans for how the immigration system will work after the Brexit transition ends. It is set to feature a fast-track visa route for healthcare workers, but this will not include social care volunteers.
Nationals from other countries who wish to live and work in the UK are, subject to certain exceptions, required to pay the immigration health surcharge in order to access services under the NHS. Significantly, the UK Government’s decision to exempt health and social care staff from other countries from paying the immigration health surcharge does not include international volunteers working in health and social care, and in other settings, for charities in the UK. International volunteers are still required to pay the immigration health surcharge in order to access services under the NHS.
Care organisations have come together to call for the plans to exempt social care volunteers from having to pay the fee.
Camphill Scotland, the ALLIANCE, SCVO and partners are calling on organisations across the UK to support our campaign to ensure that the immigration health surcharge exemption is extended to all international volunteers working for charities in the UK.
The organisations believe requiring international volunteers, including those working in health and social care, to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, is unfair and inequitable, particularly as paid staff from other countries working in health and social care in the UK will be exempt. They warn that the charge will lead to vital volunteers being lost.
A Camphill Scotland spokesman said: "We are concerned that the UK Government’s decision to exclude international volunteers from the immigration health surcharge exemption will, in the future, deter international volunteers from working as volunteers for charities in the UK in health and social care, and in other settings. This is an UK-wide issue, and will impact upon the capacity of charities across the UK in health and social care and in other settings including youth work and other services supporting young people."
The organisations had previously been working with Baroness Jolly, a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords, to try and persuade the UK Government to extend the immigration health surcharge exemption for health and social care staff to all international volunteers. Negotiations with UK Government Ministers in the House of Lords, however, during the passage of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) legislation proved inconclusive.
They are, therefore, seeking to extend the immigration health surcharge exemption to international volunteers through the attached Amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will soon commence its Committee Stage in the House of Commons. This amendment would extend the immigration health surcharge exemption to all international volunteers. It would ensure that international volunteers volunteering for charities in the UK, and international volunteers wishing to volunteer in the UK, will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge to access services provided by the NHS when they make their visa applications.
If your organisation would like to support the campaign please e-mail Robert McGeachy, policy and engagement manager at Camphill Scotland (firstname.lastname@example.org) by the end of 3 November to confirm your support, and also send your organisation’s logo.