Posted on Dec 24, 2021
In another sop to big business, Boris Johnson's government is "temporarily" relaxing immigration rules for overseas care workers in "a bid to recruit and keep staff", the government has announced.
Social care workers, care assistants and home care workers are to become eligible for a health and care visa for a 12-month period. The government said this would make it easier to fill gaps in workforces, although one might argue that investing in training for the indigenous unemployed, currently numbering 1.42 million, or 4.2% of the workforce (as of October 2021), might be a better proposal.
Care workers are to be added to the shortage occupation list, which is designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.
The temporary measures are expected to come into effect early next year, the Department of Health and Social Care said, and will be in place for a minimum of 12 months. Note the word "minimum."
It should come as no surprise that Brexit is being blamed for this problem. In fact, Brexit is, in this case, to blame. Thanks to the UK leaving the EU, British business is no longer able to prosper by employing cheap foreign labour and leaving the taxpayer to fund the indigenous unemployed, although the government that campaigned on a promise of "taking back control of our borders" is now seeking to rectify this situation by - opening up Britain's borders to cheap foreign labour!
Care workers are often employed on the annual minimum annual salary of £20,480, and are therefore very attractive to employers. Many of these support workers would be paid up to 39% more if they held equivalent roles within other public funded sectors - up to 42% if they were employed by the NHS.
Social care charity Community Integrated Care (CIC) said teaching assistants and police community support workers have similar skillsets but on average receive £7,000 more per year.
However, CIC also found that support workers in England who assist people to live independently in the community are paid on average just £17,695 a year. Whilst it might be near impossible for a British worker to live on such a low wage (the current average salary in the UK is currently £25,971), in Poland, for example, this wage would be slightly higher than the average salary which is equal to just £17,424.
The Future Social Care Coalition (FSCC) on December 1st published an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak signed by, amongst others, Stephen Dorrell, former Secretary of State for Health, Paul Burstow, former Minister of State for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt, former Minister of State for Community and Social Care.
Pay is the elephant in the room. The Government’s living wage – currently £8.91 per hour - is simply insufficient to retain the current workforce at a time when demand is high and recruitment bonuses are becoming more common. Nor is the current level of £8.91 (nor £9.50 in April 2022) enough to recruit the numbers of new staff required in a sector which has an annual “churn” of 34.4%.
The care sector is worth £50billion to the economy annually, employing 6% of the entire workforce. It is estimated that employees will need to increase by 520,000 in the next 15 years to meet the increasing demand for social care.
Importing workers to fill the gap whilst 4.2% of the workforce are looking for jobs appears shortsighted by a government that appears unable to fulfil any of its promises, in fact it is all about providing the cheapest possible workers for big business, such as Serco, which also provides housing for asylum seekers, with its Conservative Party links: let the taxpayer fund the indigenous unemployed.
Britain deserves better than this.
All op-eds are the opinion of the author.
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