Children’s social workers can be recruited from outside Europe for the second year running after the government accepted recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
Skilled senior care workers earning at least £7.80 an hour can also be hired from outside the European Economic Area but adults services social workers remain excluded from the Home Office’s latest shortage occupation list,
Councils will be permitted to recruit adult practitioners from outside Europe only if they have already advertised vacancies locally for at least two weeks at the appropriate market rate.
Earlier this year, a Community Care survey found vacancy rates of 12% in adults social work posts at local authorities in England; in children’s services, the figure was 13%.
Prime minister Gordon Brown last week announced a consultation that could lead to care workers being taken off the priority occupation list after 2010.
Brown said the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and MAC would consider removing “certain occupations”, including care workers, from the shortage list and timescales for when this would come into effect would be decided next year.
The news prompted concerns from recruitment agency HCL, which hires Australian and Canadian social workers for posts in the UK from its offices in Sydney and Toronto.
Kate Bleasdale, HCL’s executive vice-chairman, said many areas were “absolutely reliant on sourcing well-qualified social workers from outside the UK” and Australian and Canadian staff shared a “common language, culture and many of the same socio-economic issues”.
“The UK government should add social workers in all disciplines, not just children and families, to the national shortage occupation list as it’s the only way that we can deal with the vacancy crisis in this country.”
The MAC, a group of experts set up in 2007 to advise ministers on shortages in the labour market, will review the occupation list again in autumn 2010. Its first shortage list in 2008 did not include social workers but children’s social workers were added by the Home Office in November that year.
The General Social Care Council said there were nearly 6,500 social workers with overseas qualifications on the register for England, including 1,400 from countries outside Europe. The most common non-EU countries were South Africa, India and Australia.