The Border and Immigration Agency was accused today by care home providers of slashing the number of work permits given to senior care workers from overseas without warning.
The English Community Care Association, the National Care Association and Registered Nursing Homes Association said over the past three months, many staff from countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and South Africa had not had their permits renewed. Other people from overseas had not been granted the right to work.
In a joint statement, they said the Work Permits Healthcare Sector Advisory Panel, a consultative body of health and social care employer and employee groups which they sit on, was not informed of the change of practice.
ECCA, the NCA and the RNCA said: “We believe the abrupt change of direction in reducing the work permits given has caused hardship to individual staff and has disrupted resident care.”
The associations say overseas workers, particularly senior carers with NVQ Level 3 qualifications and good English language skills, are vital to the sector because of the lack of recruits from the UK and European Union.
However, a Home Office spokesperson said: “There have been no changes in the rules regarding senior carers. We do not have occupation-specific criteria. All work permit applications, no matter what the job title, must meet the work permit skills criteria set out in our business and commercial guidance notes for customers.”
But Mandy Thorn, who represents NCA on the work permits advisory board, said: “This is a very worrying time for care providers, when they know that if an extension to a work permit is refused it may be impossible to recruit someone with the same expertise and qualifications.”