Health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins has defended the government’s plan to prevent overseas care workers from bringing their dependants to the UK, insisting that the policy represents a ‘sensible’ way to tackle high migration.
Ms Atkins told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Wednesday that she was confident the government would be able to maintain the level of interest internationally for care workers despite the measure.
The health secretary’s comments follow warnings from health unions that the plan to prohibit dependants from entering the UK under the Health and Care Worker visa will have serious implications for the social care workforce.
Professor Nicola Ranger, Royal College of Nursing chief nurse, has said the ‘cruel sanction will deter care workers from coming to the UK, adding to dire workforce shortages in social care and ultimately piling even more pressure on an overburdened NHS’.
Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison, also described the measure as ‘cruel’ and warned it could ’spell total disaster for the NHS and social care’.
However, the health secretary told the select committee that the government had ‘got to a very sensible place’ with the policy.
‘We got to a situation where we had more people coming over who were dependants than people working under the visas,’ she said.
‘We must tackle high migration and do so in a way that is fair to all residents,’ Ms Atkins added.
Steve Brine MP, chair of the Health and Social Committee, pointed out that Care England had said that it had not been consulted on the proposal.
Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care, answered that he was not surprised since ‘that’s not how immigration decisions are made’.