An estimated 10,000 care staff from non-EU countries look set to lose their jobs under the government’s new approach to unskilled immigrant workers.
Unions and care provider bodies say the government’s decision to move to an Australian-style points-based system for controlling the number of non-EU economic migrants working in the UK will not only cost jobs but severely disrupt care to thousands of vulnerable people receiving mental health, domiciliary and residential services.
Last week the government announced the criteria it will use to judge whether someone from Africa, Asia and America is classed as a highly skilled worker. With its emphasis on university qualifications and working in fields with higher than average wages, most care workers are unlikely to qualify.
However, under the new system the only unskilled workers – those who do not qualify for highly skilled status – able to work in the UK will be from EU countries.
According to government figures, 12,000 unskilled work permits were granted to non-EU workers last year, while it estimates there are 80,000 health and care workers just from the Philippines alone.
Unison says there are more than 10,000 senior care workers who face not having their work permits renewed.
And Sheila Scott, NCA chief executive, said that the government’s call for EU nationals to fill these roles failed to take into account language barriers.
“Workers from Asia and Africa tend to have good English skills whereas there are serious language issues with those from Eastern Europe. Good communication is essential in care as you could be administering drugs,” she said.
Earlier this year, the Home Office said it would allow non-EU care staff paid a minimum of £7.02 an hour to remain working in the UK, but this rate would still be unrealistic for many providers to pay, says ECCA. It is currently challenging the government’s policy through a judicial review.