Work permit reprieve too little too late, say providers

Government concessions on allowing overseas senior carers to renew work permits fall short and have come too late for those who have already left the UK.

That was the message from providers after the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) increased the number of senior care workers from outside the European Economic Area who can renew permits.

Employers and trade union Unison had warned that a shift in practice last summer by the BIA, under which permit applications by overseas senior carers were turned down and renewal bids rejected, would leave a massive dent in the sector’s workforce, affecting up to 10,000 staff.

The BIA had claimed that senior carer posts failed to meet the skills criteria for a work permit – three years’ experience in an S/NVQ level 3 role – despite many applicants being granted permits under the same criteria since 2000.

A concession made last August – that the criteria would be waived for renewals by staff earning £7.02 or more – was dismissed by providers because few staff outside London and the South East received this much.

The changes led the English Community Care Association (ECCA) to launch a judicial review of the shift on the basis of the lack of consultation and the impact on services.

This has now been put on ice following fresh BIA concessions. The agency said staff would be able to apply for a permit with a new employer without meeting the skills criteria, so long as the job meets the £7.02 rate.

It is also understood to be considering granting one-year renewals to people given a work permit in 2003 without them having to meet the salary rate.

ECCA also said the BIA had promised consultation on a way forward with the Work Permits Healthcare Sector Advisory Panel, which includes social care employers and unions.

Unison and employer groups welcomed the changes, but the latter said they were insufficient. Mandy Thorn, the National Care Association’s representative on the advisory panel, said: “It won’t help a number of people who have already left the country, having had their applications turned down.”

She called for the £7.02 rate to be scrapped for all cases.

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Mithran Samuel


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