Care England is ‘concerned, annoyed and irritated’ that the government has announced controversial changes to the immigration rules for care workers without consulting the sector.
The view was expressed by Professor Martin Green, Care England’s chief executive, at a House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee hearing on Tuesday.
According to Home Office proposals announced earlier this month, dependants of migrant care workers will be prohibited from entering the UK under the Health and Care visa.
Professor Green said Care England was ‘very concerned’ about the announcement.
He told the hearing that ‘people need to have their families in order to settle’, and also warned that the changes could exacerbate the ‘chronic workforce shortage’ within social care.
Professor Green said: ‘We are in a position where we cannot, in some areas, recruit staff. And this is not only having an impact on the services, but in some areas, it’s reducing capacity.
‘So, I’ve got members who have had to reduce the numbers of people they support because they can’t get the staff.’
Professor Green also warned of ‘huge increases’ in agency costs. ‘What we found with overseas workers is that they have good skills, and also their continuity of care is good because they stay in the roles that they come to,’ he said.
At a previous Health and Social Care Committee hearing, health secretary Victoria Atkins defended the policy but was told of Care England’s concern at the lack of consultation. Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care, answered: ‘That’s not how immigration decisions are made’.
However, at the latest hearing, Professor Green said: ‘It would have been much better if they had been more collaborative and they had come to talk to us, and they [would have] understood what the implications of these changes would be before they announced them.
‘And unfortunately, they did not do that, so we’re all a bit blindsided by it.’
Oonagh Smyth, chief executive at Skills for Care, warned the committee that a reduction in international recruitment would mean that ‘we’re really going to need to take a look at workforce capacity in the short term but, really importantly, in the medium and longer term as well’.
She said: ‘Our evidence, which covers about half of the social care workforce, is really clear that international recruits have significantly contributed to workforce capacity.’
Professor Green said the timing of the Home Office announcement was ‘unfortunate’ because ‘they really haven’t got a clear strategy on how they are going to grow this homegrown workforce’.
He added: ‘The other thing people need to be really clear about is the number of vacancies in this sector is huge, so we are going to have to both grow the homegrown workforce but also recognise we will need people from overseas.
‘There needs to be a comprehensive approach to planning this.’