Quick background

At Truth Legal, we have long believed that one answer to staff shortages in the UK’s care sector is immigration policy, although it’s certainly not the only answer.

Under the current immigration system, regular Care Workers are not eligible for sponsorship, but Senior Care Workers are.

This is because, in the Government’s estimation, regular Care Workers are deemed not skilled enough to be capable of sponsorship.  Like many, we strongly disagree with that skill classification.

As a result of the skill classification, employers are locked out of overseas recruitment for regular Care Workers, where staffing pressures are just as intense and immediate.

Since March 2021, Senior Care Workers have also had the added bonus of being on the Shortage Occupation List, meaning that they can be paid a much lower salary that would otherwise be the case.  This has made the sponsorship of Senior Care Workers a serious and viable option for care organisations.

What happened last week?

Last week, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released its annual report.  The MAC is an independent body which advises the Government on migration issues.

And their report did not mince words:

“We recommend that the Government make Care Workers and Home Carers (SOC Code 6145) immediately eligible for the Health and Care Worker Visa and place the occupation on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)”.

Pretty unambiguous, but let’s dissect these two important points:

  • The MAC thinks Care Workers should be recognised as a Shortage Occupation.

This is important for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List would presumably make Care Workers capable of being sponsored under a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.

Under previous rules, any job on the Shortage Occupation List was exempt from meeting the minimum skills threshold.  The current Immigration Rules do not have this explicit exemption, but we assume that if Care Workers are added to the Shortage Occupation List, this will bring about the necessary legal amendments to allow Care Workers to be sponsored.

Furthermore, inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List would mean that employers could benefit from a lower minimum salary requirement when sponsoring Care Workers – £20,480 instead of the usual £25,600 applicable to non-Shortage Occupations.  This would bring the pay requirements in line with Senior Care Workers.

  • The MAC thinks Care Workers should be eligible for the Health and Care Worker Visa.

The Health and Care Worker Visa is a special type of Skilled Worker Visa which allows individual applicants to benefit from much lower fees, faster decisions, and an exemption from the pricey Immigration Health Surcharge.

What will the Government do?

We know that post-Brexit, the Government wants to focus on building the UK’s domestic workforce.  Expanding eligibility for sponsorship doesn’t exactly fit with either the tough talk on immigration numbers, or the “take-back-control” rhetoric.

On the rare occasions the Government makes positive noises about immigration, it’s normally around promoting “highly skilled” migration.  As noted above, regular Care Workers are harshly classified as low-skilled.  Adding Care Workers to the Shortage Occupation List may be unpalatable to the Brexit ideologues in Government.

However, as with the shortage of HGV drivers, the Government’s tough stance on immigration will soon collide with reality, as it will soon be forced to decide whether to follow the MAC’s recommendations.  Interestingly, in recent times the Government has followed MAC recommendations with seeming obedience, including the addition of Senior Care Workers to the Shortage Occupation List in March 2021.

The shortage of Care Workers is an issue which is both chronic, and glaringly obvious.  It also resonates with much of the public, who feel a personal stake in the state of the UK’s care system.  It would be controversial indeed for the Government to reject measures which would undoubtedly alleviate some of the pressures on embattled care providers.

You might say that the MAC’s recommendation has picked up the Government, and dumped it firmly between a rock and a hard place.  But this surely lets the Government off the hook.  After all, the predicament it now faces is entirely of its own making, following years of decisions based on idealism and wishful thinking.

It’s time the Government faced up to reality and followed the MAC’s stark recommendation.

Immigration and the care sector

While we wait to see what happens next, now could be the time to think about getting a sponsor licence.

As a starting point, our sector-specific webpage gives details of what we do and how to contact us.  You can also read our free legal guide, which covers all aspects of sponsorship.  We believe it’s the most comprehensive guide out there.

And if you’d like to talk to us about sponsor licences or any other immigration matter, you can call us on 01423788538 or submit an online enquiry.

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Catherine Reynolds
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