The government will allow employers to recruit social workers from outside Europe, contrary to expert advice.
The Home Office included social workers in a list of shortage occupations, published yesterday, for which organisations can more easily recruit staff from outside the European Economic Area.
Under Tier 2 of the points-based immigration system, which is launched later this month, employers can only recruit skilled migrants if they demonstrate they cannot fill a post from within the EEA. Immigrants must then meet qualification and salary requirements.
However, none of these tests apply to shortage occupations.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises ministers on how immigration can address labour market shortages, did not include social workers in a proposed list, published in September.
The committee said social work passed only one of 12 shortage indicators – the basis on which it placed occupations on the list.
But the Home Office said evidence had emerged about social workers that had not been available to the MAC. It has asked the committee to review this evidence and report back by next March but placed social workers on the list for the time being to ensure “crucial services to vulnerable members of society” were not put at risk.
The government also asked the committee to review evidence for senior care workers, although it accepted the MAC’s controversial recommendation to limit shortage status in England to posts paid £8.80 an hour or above.
Representative bodies for adult care providers, who have long relied on thousands of staff from outside Europe, said the MAC’s proposal was a “hammer blow for the sector” because of the “unrealistic and unworkable” minimum salary.
They said council funding for providers made it impossible for them to pay senior carers £8.80 in most cases.
Welcome for review
United Kingdom Homecare Association chair Mike Padgham welcomed the review and called for a “way forward that is not utterly focussed on an unrealistic salary scale but looks at the range of skills that a senior care worker needs”.
Unison also welcomed the review and the inclusion of social workers on the shortage list.