60,000 boost to care workforce from overseas staff in past year

Government figures reveal huge rise in skilled visas for social care workers in 2022-23 but fall in care home vacancies not matched in domiciliary care

Home care worker speaking to older person

The social care workforce has been boosted by 58,000 overseas staff over the past year, revealed government immigration figures published today.

But while care homes have made a dent in record vacancy levels experienced in 2022, staffing gaps have remained stubbornly high in domiciliary care, according to separate data issued by Skills for Care.

The rise in overseas staff joining the workforce came on the back of the government’s decision to add ‘care workers’ and ‘home carers’ to its shortage occupation list for skilled workers in February 2022, enabling providers to directly recruit from abroad to these roles for the first time.

Immigration figures

This resulted in a rise from 113 to 40,416 in the number of these staff issued with health and care visas from 2021-22 to 2022-23. Over the same period, the number of senior care workers recruited in the same way rose from 6,763 to 17,250, meaning 50,790 more staff joined the workforce through the health and care visa in 2022-23 than 2021-22.

Social care staff accounted for 57% of health and care visas in 2022-23, up from 19% in 2021-22. Over half of health and care visas were granted to staff from India (29,726), Nigeria (17,596) or Zimbabwe (17,421), with all three nations seeing rapid growth in the number of their citizens moving to the UK to work in health and social care.

Old metal sign with the inscription Vacancies

Photo: Zerbor/Adobe Stock

The rise in the overseas workforce follows a 52% rise in adult social care vacancies in 2021-22, attributed to factors including a loss of competitiveness in pay to retail and hospitality, a drop in the number of migrant staff from Europe due to Brexit and post-Covid burnout among the workforce.

Falling care home vacancies

Vacancies appear to have fallen – and employment increased – since then in the care home sector. Preliminary Skills for Care data showed that, from March 2022 to April 2023:

However, in domiciliary care, the vacancy rate for all roles fell only slightly over this time, from 13.2% to 13%, while the number of filled care worker posts fell by 1.2%.

Umbrella body the Homecare Association has cited the sharp rise in fuel costs during 2022 as among factors forcing staff to leave their roles.

The extent of the pressures on home care workforce were revealed in the results of Homecare Association research with providers carried out in January and February 2023.

This found that 66% of providers felt recruitment was harder, while 43% said that more care workers were leaving,  than six months previously.

Care England, which represents independent care providers, said the rise in the number of overseas staff could not address the chronic workforce pressures the sector faced, driven by low pay.

£15 minimum wage urged

“Whilst increases in net migration may help to fill vacancies within the sector, ultimately, the workforce crisis will never be truly addressed until the government provides the sector with the funding it needs to adequately reward the workforce with the pay and recognition they deserve,” said its chief executive, Martin Green.

Care England CEO Martin Green

Care England CEO Martin Green

As of last month, the national living wage (NLW) – the hourly pay floor for staff aged 23 and over – rose from £9.50 to £10.42, while the national minimum wage (NMW) for 21- and 22-year-olds increased from £9.18 to £10.18.

This will have boosted the pay of the many care workers who earn around the NLW or NMW.

However, Green added: “Care England has long called for a care wage that sits above the NLW and supports the Trade Union Congress’ call to implement a £15 minimum wage for individuals in care worker roles, fully funded by central government and ring-fenced for this purpose. This would not only improve the workforce crisis in adult social care, but give the English economy a much needed multi-billion pound boost.”

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2 Responses to 60,000 boost to care workforce from overseas staff in past year

  1. Chris Sterry June 3, 2023 at 5:08 pm #

    Yes, while the overseas workers are so welcomed, it is just a ‘drop in the ocean’ for what is really required and yes, that is a starting salary for care workers of at least £15 per hour. However, it is not just pay, but working conditions in all areas of care working, with insufficient travel expenses in home care working, with sick pay and recognition of holidays, especially Bank Holidays in all sectors of care and so much more.

    While most of the care working sector is through private providers, most of their funding comes through Local Authorities, (LAs), and LAs have been deprived of funding for all essential services from 2010 via Tory austerity cuts and still mostly to this day.

    Recently some little funding was announced and then halved and then delayed until 2025, which may be far too late for social care. For if social care is unable to continue the NHS will not be far behind and no one wishes to lose the NHS, well perhaps the Tories might for they could have some other ideas, like an American system, God forbid.

    The situations are so dire and if it wasn’t for unpaid family carers it would be even more dire for family carers as of 2021 saved the UK over £193 billion in care costs, well increased from the £132 billion in 2015.

    A UK government has to act, but first listen like they have never done before and provide the funding for social care before it is too late and 2025 could well be, for I estimate that social care needs a good £12 billion a year and then sustainable funding for all years to come, which it has never had.

    Much more intergration into health, perhaps, even full intergration into health so all health and social care is under one organisation.

    A pity this was not done in 1948, but then they viewed the NHS as the priority and social care be looked at through welfare beneifts, but successive governments have done nothing to maintain welfare benefits, especially over the last few years.

    Currently not much to really look forward to as the influx of overseas workers is only to be a short-term measure, so it is a very small plaster to be removed soon, when what is required is a full scale operation and then sufficient more to ensure a full and sustained recovery.

  2. Ryan Webb June 6, 2023 at 11:45 am #

    Health and social care services in Britain have been freely benefiting from the extremely valuable education, training and skills resources of many much poorer countries for a very, very long time indeed. A current BBC report on Ghana’s depleting cohort of specialist nurses highlights how this hangover of exploitative colonialism impacts detrimentally on those countries.