Social care staff have not been included in plans to give health workers from the EU priority to work in post-Brexit Britain
Care organisations have hit out at the UK Government for failing to guarantee visas for social care staff after Brexit.
Last week, 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 staff.
Leading organisations have come together to warn of the impact the move will have on the sector.
Camphill Scotland along with 50 partner organisations from across the UK including the ALLIANCE, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Disability Wales, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and UNISON, have raised serious concerns regarding post-Brexit impacts on the health and social care sector over the last few years.
Last month, Brendan O’Hara MP lodged Amendment NC1 to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill on behalf of the organisations, which was debated and subsequently defeated on 30th June by 344 votes to 247 votes.
The amendment called for an independent evaluation to determine the full impact of the ending of freedom of movement and of the introduction of a points based immigration system on the care, support and safeguarding for disabled adults, children and young people, and people with long term conditions or other support needs.
The groups have said the announcement made by Home Secretary Priti Patel “confirmed their worst fears”, and leaves the care sector confused and concerned as to how they will retain and recruit skilled, committed staff.
Emma Walker, director of Camphill Scotland, said carers continue to be undervalued despite the incredible work they do.
“This is a devastating blow to the care sector and the people who depend upon it most,” she said. “The points-based immigration system places Camphill communities and care providers across the UK in a vulnerable position. Many questions remain unanswered but one thing is certain, and that’s the detrimental impact this decision will have on care provision.
“For Camphill communities and other organisations who have international voluntarism embedded into their working practice, it’s a double-whammy. Cost of care will increase and the connections between our international volunteers and those that they work with will be lost.
“Despite statements to the contrary, it is clear that the incredible commitment and work shown by our carers during the coronavirus pandemic has gone unnoticed by those who have made this decision. Clapping for carers each week is deeply insulting if the next act of government is to announce the curtain call.”
Freedom of movement from the EU into the UK will end on New Year's Day, when the Brexit transition period expires.
Ministers have set out plans for a points-based system to replace it, including mandatory requirements for visa applicants to have a job offer on the table and to be able to speak English.
The fast-track health and care visa will be open to workers who have a confirmed job offer in one of a series of "skilled" roles within the NHS or care sector, and those eligible will pay reduced fees and hear back within three weeks.
This is likely to include doctors, nurses, radiographers, social workers and paramedics, but not social care staff.
Professor Ian Welsh, chief executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) said: “Dedicated and committed social care workers provide invaluable support that enables disabled people and people living with long term conditions to enjoy their right to independent living and participate equally in – and contribute to – Scottish society. By excluding care workers from the proposed new fast-track health and care visa, the UK Government demonstrates a lack of understanding of the skilled and vital role played by the social care workforce.
“This decision further perpetuates the lack of parity between health and social care, and underlines even more the need for an independent evaluation of the impact of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill on the health and social sectors, as called for by the ALLIANCE, Camphill Scotland and 50 partners.”
Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said: “It is a matter of the deepest regret that the Home Office has failed to take into account the representations made by the care sector in Scotland. The failure to recognise the distinctive social care needs of Scotland both in terms of its ageing population and workforce and the shortage of workers in Scotland in general is a matter of incalculable folly.
“To initiate such dramatic restrictions on the ability of social care providers to recruit from outwith the United Kingdom and to fail to identify social care in the Shortage Occupation List beggars belief in the midst of a global pandemic.”
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Patel said: "At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.
"But we are also making necessary changes so it is simpler for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to the UK to complement the skills we already have."