Councils able to recruit overseas social workers through £15m fund

    Main focus of international recruitment fund should be on sourcing care staff, but DHSC says it can also be used for social workers, OTs or nurses

    The word 'recruit' spelt out
    Photo: patpitchaya/Fotolia

    Councils will be able use a £15m international recruitment fund to source social workers from overseas to work in adults’ services, the government has confirmed.

    The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that, though the focus of the fund should be on recruiting care workers, it could also be used to help source social workers, occupational therapists or nurses.

    The fund will be available in 2023-24 and is one of the DHSC’s responses to adult social care’s worsening staff shortages, with vacancies across the sector in England having risen by 52% in 2021-22.

    This has been attributed to the impact of increased competition for staff from other low-wage sectors, such as retail, or the NHS, staff burnout as a result of Covid and a reduced supply of workers from Europe due to Brexit.

    The government, NHS and sector leaders see the staff shortage as a key factor in problems including the high volume of delayed discharges from hospitals and long waiting lists for social care assessments and packages.

    Reducing recruitment barriers

    The international recruitment fund is designed to reduce barriers to sourcing staff from abroad, particularly for small or medium-sized care providers, including  due to administrative complexity and costs.

    In guidance published this week, the DHSC said councils and providers needed to form regional or sub-regional partnerships for managing the resource, with a lead local authority selected to receive the funding.

    It said partnerships could use the fund to

    • help providers attract overseas candidates;
    • create a shared recruitment resource that looked at the whole region’s needs;
    • provide an advice or checking service for sponsorship licence or visa applications;
    • help new arrivals to access affordable housing;
    • assist recruits with work travel requirements, for example, helping them gain a UK driving licence;
    • provide pastoral support, such as buddying schemes.

    The DHSC has set a maximum funding allowance for each of the nine English regions but is requiring lead local authorities to submit applications setting out how much they need and what it would be used for, by 24 February 2023.

    The lead council must ensure that the application “reflects a consensus view across the collaborating partners”.

    It is unclear how far partnerships will use the recruitment fund to source social workers. While vacancy rates rose for council adults’ practitioners from 2020-21, from 7.5% to 9.5%, they were below levels for nurses (14.6%), personal assistants (13.1%), home care staff (13%), registered managers (12.8%) and frontline care staff generally (11.8%), as of April 2022.

    More overseas social workers applying for registration

    The launch of the fund comes amid a rise in  the number of practitioners from overseas applying for registration in England.

    Social Work England said it received 411 applications from overseas in October to December 2022, a 30% rise on the 314 received in the same period in 2021, in a paper to its board meeting last month.

    It said most had come from social workers from South Africa, Zimbabwe and India.

    Due to the increase in application numbers and a rule change in July 2022 giving practitioners up to 28 days, rather than 14, to respond to requests for further information, the median number of days the regulator took to process applications rose from seven to 34 days, from April to December last year.

    Social Work England said it was allocating more resources to its overseas applications team to address the issue.


    ‘More urgency needed to tackle crisis’

    In relation to the fund’s core purpose, to address the increasing workforce shortages in the care sector, provider representative body Care England said it was a “step in the right direction”.

    However, chief executive Martin Green said it was “deeply concerning that the Department of Health and Social Care is not acting with more urgency to address the workforce crisis”.

    “The care sector is in dire need of support, and it’s imperative that the government takes immediate and decisive action to address this critical issue through longer-term planning, rather than continuous short-term funds,” he added.

    “The ongoing neglect of the social care sector is putting an unsustainable burden on the NHS and endangering the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society.”


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    19 Responses to Councils able to recruit overseas social workers through £15m fund

    1. T Minns February 12, 2023 at 11:04 pm #

      Will the oversea carers brought to the UK be trained to a high enough standard to care for the most vulnerable in society. Two weeks training an online training session is not viable to care for those without mental capacity placed by social services in unregulated placements with service providers making huge profits from those unable to protect them selves. Companies are offering support services they are unqualified to support.
      We are grateful for the carers but the companies need to be regulated as social services fail to protect these people and train the staff appropriately. Why is the government throwing money at these companies when they are broken.

    2. E sCjey February 12, 2023 at 11:07 pm #

      Why is the social care Council bringing workers from overseas when UK qualified Social workers with 15 years experience returning to practice have to work as support workers before registration is renewed. This makes no sense.

      • Charlotte February 14, 2023 at 8:06 am #

        Exactly. There are social workers here in the UK qualified, but because they have been out of social worker some years they need to find a Suppor work job to gain experiences. Why not the Government use some of those funds to train those social worker , so they won’t have to bring from overseas.

      • Veronica February 14, 2023 at 8:50 am #

        Thank you E sCjey. Also would they be expected to register with SWE first before they are able to work? How would they know for sure if oversees social workers are suitably qualified? I qualified some years ago but worked in criminal justice however I’m not able to register without doing and passing a Return to SW course first.

    3. Alec Fraher February 13, 2023 at 2:13 am #

      What are the terms of the trade-agreements with these countries saying? Is there a genuine congruence of wills within which the actual contracting for employment takes place? If the experience within ‘domiciliary care’ is anything to go by there isn’t.

    4. Denise Wiggins February 13, 2023 at 6:53 am #

      I am interested

    5. Me February 13, 2023 at 7:57 am #

      Why don’t you look at recruiting and retaining workers here?

    6. Alan February 13, 2023 at 9:53 am #

      For ‘overseas’ please read cheap. ?

    7. Chrisa Gerong February 13, 2023 at 1:04 pm #

      How to apply.?

    8. The Watcher February 13, 2023 at 1:48 pm #


      “We can’t exploit our own workers anymore. They’ve cottoned on and had enough.”

      “No problem. Let’s get them in from overseas. It works for the NHS.”

      “Great idea. We can pay them less and they won’t have a clue. It’ll be just like the Windrush.”


    9. Ntogo Dinebari Favour February 13, 2023 at 2:22 pm #

      What are the requirements

    10. Chris Sterry February 13, 2023 at 4:14 pm #

      £15 million is a start, but nowhere near enough for pay levels have to be sorted in all aspects of social care and even more so for care workers. Pay rates for care workers have been far too low for years and without a considerable increase bringing in workers from outside the UK will be another, insufficient, ‘sticking plaster’. For the wound to social care needs to be healed forever, but I can’t see any government doing so, not the current and none coming forward.

      Where a wound is left to fester, then amputations are the next stage and eventually death and that is what is occurring with social care, due to the complete lack of care, understanding and recognition from this government and all preceding governments.

      People can’t live on fresh air and the air, currently, has not been fresh for some time.

    11. Louise February 13, 2023 at 4:50 pm #

      Ah.. so instead of improving pay and working conditions for social workers in the UK, they want to import from foreign countries and pay them cheaply. Good luck with that. Once they get here and realise the terrible pay, and working conditions..that can barely cover rent and basic utilities.. they’ll be off and the same problem returns. Government haven’t got a clue.. but they have a clue for their mates and their dodgy covid contracts. SHAMBLES.

    12. Mithran Samuel February 14, 2023 at 10:56 am #

      Hi All
      Thanks very much for all your comments.
      Just to clarify, this isn’t a scheme, as I understand, for people to apply for roles in England, but funding for employers in England to help them recruit people from outside the UK.
      Employers will be advertising for roles through other channels and making clear whether they are looking for social workers or care workers from outside the UK.

      • Deluxe February 15, 2023 at 4:58 pm #

        How about social worker 5000 deregisterd by social work Englands faulty website and are not working now.

    13. Public voice February 14, 2023 at 11:57 pm #

      Well, the plan is good but it’s wasting money I mean different sources of wasting taxpayer money, in this country more then 1/2 millions of people living illegally, who wants to pay the legal costs of permits process/fee, in this case government will rise the found instead of wasting money !!

    14. David February 18, 2023 at 11:08 am #

      Genius. You get the public riled up about immigration to draw attention away from years of policy failure. Simultaneously, you bring people in from elsewhere to man your underfunded and understaffed essential services. Risible. And that’s before we even think about the notion that often developing countries are paying to train these staff and we are then poaching them for nothing. Colonialism is alive and well. Social work as a profession isn’t fit for purpose if it can’t stand up against these practices

    15. Precious Mabuto February 19, 2023 at 12:56 pm #

      A lot of social workers are out there in their countries because some cant pay IELTS . IELTS is a requirement to register for social workers to practice in England. If someone did her degree in English why are they not considering approval from Ecctis and acknowledgement from the university stating that the student can read, write, listen, and speak English. Maybe consider the vulnerability of international social workers.


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