Government seeks overseas care staff to fill mounting shortages

Taskforce launched to boost international recruitment in advance of 'challenging winter'

Home care worker speaking to older person

The government wants to boost international recruitment to fill increasing gaps in the social care workforce.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a taskforce to bring in more staff from overseas into both social care and health in time for what it said would be a “challenging winter”.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are committed to building and supporting our hard-working NHS and social care workforces and have launched a taskforce to drive up the recruitment of international staff into critical roles across the system.

“The taskforce will work with experts across government and the NHS and social care sectors to agree actions that will boost staff numbers ahead of the challenging winter period. Further details will be set out in due course.”

The news comes amid mounting concerns about the impact of rising staff shortages in social care on disabled and older people, unpaid carers and the functioning of the NHS.

The number of vacancies in adult social care rose by 52% in 2021-22.

Factors cited for the trend include workforce attrition caused by the immense challenges of working through the pandemic, social care being overtaken, in terms of pay, by other low-paid sectors, such as retail, and the widening gap in remuneration between equivalent roles in social care and the NHS, such as nursing.

Post-Brexit drop in overseas staff

However, some have also cited the impact of ending free movement from European countries following Brexit, in January 2021, in reducing the supply of overseas staff.

From January to April 2021, just 1.8% of new starters in adult social care were from overseas, compared with 5.2% in the same period in 2019, according to Skills for Care figures.

The government’s post-Brexit immigration system initially all but locked out people from moving to the UK to work as care workers through a skilled worker visa.

However, it subsequently relaxed this position by adding, first, senior care workers, and then other care workers, to its shortage occupation list.

This has enabled employers to recruit staff using the so-called health and social care visa, so long as they earn at least £10.10 an hour.

Recruitment barriers

However, around half of care workers and a third of senior care workers earn less than this, said a report earlier this year by the Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on immigration.

Also, care workers were only added to the shortage list for 12 months, pending a government review, while employers must pay for a sponsorship licence, and then face ongoing charges, to bring staff in on a health and social care visa.

In its report, MAC called for ongoing charges to be dropped and for the government to make permanent employers’ ability to recruit care workers through the health and social care visa.

In response to news of the taskforce, the Independent Care Group, which represents providers in Yorkshire, said a key priority was tackling barriers to overseas recruitment created by Home Office “bureaucracy”.

‘Home Office bureaucracy strangling the process’

Chair Mike Padgham said: “We agree with the health secretary that we need more overseas staff to ease the shortage but the truth is Home Office bureaucracy is strangling the process.

“Care providers are waiting months to get their application for a licence to recruit overseas workers approved and in the meantime, care is suffering.

“So whilst we applaud the health secretary for highlighting the issue, he needs to get on to the Home Office and sort out the bottleneck, otherwise a situation that is already dire, will be critical this winter.


, ,

More from Community Care

10 Responses to Government seeks overseas care staff to fill mounting shortages

  1. Tahin August 9, 2022 at 12:25 pm #

    Well maybe this has a bigger impact then not being able to recruit from abroad.
    *1 in 9 care homes are run by Investment firms whose Executives doubled their salaries in the last 5 years.
    *Private Equity Hedge Funds and Real Estate Investment Trusts are increasing their role in social care.
    *NHS and Local Authorites invest in these companies for their pension pots.
    *Annual pay of care staff employed by Investment firms is £22,200. Directors earn £296,600
    *Annual pay of care staff employed by firms which are not Investment companies, including ‘family owned’ providers, is £19,400. For Directors it’s £237,600.
    *Care staff employed by “Not for Profit” providers earn £21,600 a year. Directors get £149,600.
    *The hourly pay rate of care staff is £9,50.

    Source is University of Surrey report “Held to Ransom”.

    • Tom J August 10, 2022 at 4:58 pm #

      Agreed. Great summary ?

  2. Jane Young August 10, 2022 at 10:56 am #

    How are disabled people using direct payments supposed to navigate this complexity? And what will the Gov and councils do about the very PA low pay rates allowed by direct payments? After all, the money must be there because disabled people, are allowed (in some circs at least) to engage agencies, which charge MUCH more than PAs are paid when employed by disabled people directly. Why can’t some of the difference (between permitted PA pay rates and agency charges), be used to increase the standard permitted pay rates payable to PAs by disabled people on direct payments?

    I know several disabled people who are having huge problems recruiting PAs, due to the twin problems of Brexit and the low pay rates allowed by DP packages. Such disabled employers are likely to be invisible to the Home Office, so someone needs to grasp this otherwise they will also end up becoming unwell, which will also cost the public purse more in the long run.

  3. Kyle August 11, 2022 at 8:06 am #

    Brexit and low pay rates are intertwined. Otherwise care staff pay would have gone up when free movement ceased. Low to poor pay will be further entrenched by ‘recruiting’ from overseas again. If providers were really concerned about staffing levels they would pay better. More profitable to exploit migrant labour though. The equations are simple.

  4. Andy August 12, 2022 at 8:55 am #

    The very idea that such a vital welfare resource has become so heavily dependent on labour from overseas (largely based on the fact that the pay and conditions are so unattractive and not dissimilar to a number of other areas of employment in Britain) indicates an embarrassing failure of the care system to value its workers AND most importantly the vulnerable people it is supposed to serve.

    • Carol August 15, 2022 at 8:12 am #

      The care system regards its staff as being the fodder that enables it to pay out share holder dividends. Their apologists like ADASS values venerable people as the chip to plead for more tax payer subsidies on behalf of ‘providers’. BASW sits in the corner splicing together a mates list for a podcast on “co-production” which curiously never seems to address the inevitable neglect of people in care settings as a cause and consequence of dividend payouts and pay disparities. But hey ho, there is the Social Worker of the Year Awards to look forward to.

  5. Chris Keenan August 12, 2022 at 11:05 am #

    When I went to read this a survey popped up about “attraction, recruitment and retention” in the social care scene (CBA’d to fill in another pointless survey, they change nothing and just waste my time)! … I think this article just flys in the face of that … the system is broken and I feel so powerless to act … such a sad state of affairs on so many levels … 2 being my dad is in a care home (bless his heart) and I’m a qualified registered social worker who just wants out after 20 years ‘in the fiend’ …

  6. Chris Sterry August 15, 2022 at 8:54 pm #

    There are many factors here and some are being looked in isolation.

    The problems are that care work is viewed by many as being unskilled, when to provide good quality care it is far from it as many skills are required for care work is not all about care.

    Some of the areas are

    emotional support
    ability to manage a persons finances
    understanding moving and handling
    technical support for a cared for persons equipment
    understanding medication and its dispensing
    with many others

    So with many care workers being on just the National Living Wage hourly rate of £9.50, even the Real Living Wage of £9.90 is no where near the rates for skilled workers, which care workers should be classed as.

    Also we need to get away from the idea that all care workers work in care homes for many don’t, for many work for home care providers and also many are employed direct by persons in need of care and everybody is paid a meagre salary.

    As to PA care rates, well in 2010 they were far in excess of rates paid to care workers employed by care providers and if the real living Wage had been in existence it was well above what it would have been.

    So what is the significance of 2010, well that was when austerity cuts were placed on Local Authorities by the then Tory/ Lib Dems collation government and the cuts went on for at least 10 more years and then there was and is COVID. So, as austerity cuts made any significance to the salary differentials for PA rates and Agency provider rates, well I believe it has and maybe to some extent is one of the reason care workers are so low paid.

    But maybe not so, as care workers have aways been very low paid and social care as never been funded as sufficiently as it should have been.

    So why are we all fighting each other and even LAs, when all this should be firmly placed at the Door of the Health and Social Care Secretary and the resulting Prime Ministers, who have done little and in reality nothing for social care, as there are even major shortage of Social Workers.

    Lets all of us agree that Social Care is in a very grave and deep crisis and that is resulting in making the crisis in the NHS even worse, with bed blocking long ambulance waits, A&Es not meeting targets due to the crisis in Primary Care with GP Practices.

    All this is interrelated and it affects us all, but we are so intent of blaming each other, when all the blame should be heaped on the Government. Even to the extent that until now this Government has done all it can to stop non-UK persons coming to the UK to help care worker recruitment. It is not non-UK persons who are stopping care worker salaries increasing, but the total lack of concern by this Tory Government and all previous Governments, from whichever Party they came from.

  7. Spike.M August 19, 2022 at 7:58 am #

    No one on their doorstep now clapping for carers and demanding higher wages. No just ship them in from abroad and pay them peanuts. I know an agency worker who 15 years ago used to get about £13 per hour, now get barely £10. It defies the laws of economics that during a labour shortage you can actually pay people less. Both Labour and Tory governments have allowed this neo-slavery, all supported by the mainstream media.

    • Alan August 19, 2022 at 5:16 pm #

      And by ADASS unfortunately.