New immigration rules unreasonable, says Lincolnshire Care Association chairman
Yesterday (Monday) the Home Secretary James Cleverley MP announced a number of measures to reduce legal immigration, including preventing incoming workers from bringing their families with them.
Melanie Weatherley, chairman of Lincolnshire Care Association, said: “We welcome the clear recognition by the Government of the importance of international recruits within the care workforce, but this new measure seems unreasonable.
“We're already asking these people to give up their lives on the other side of the world to come and help us to care for older people and people with learning disabilities.
“To ask them to do that but not allow them to bring their children or the rest of their family with them seems unreasonable, regardless of the understandable impact on our infrastructure.”
She went on: “Essentially we are asking these people to leave their family behind to come and support our most vulnerable adults – to choose between caring for their family, or caring for ours. No-one should have to make that decision.”
Lincolnshire Care Association is a not-for-profit organisation supporting adult care providers of domiciliary care, end of life care, learning disabilities, mental health, nursing homes, residential care homes, and supported living within the independent and voluntary sectors in Lincolnshire.
The government will ban foreign social care workers from bringing their partners and family members to the UK to try and drive down net migration. The Home Secretary also announced that the minimum salary requirement for a skilled worker from overseas will rise significantly to £38,700. This does not include NHS and social care staff. The income threshold for family visas, which includes foreign partners of British citizens, will rise to the same amount. The Home Office said there would be some exceptionality clauses.
These were part of a five-point plan Mr Cleverly unveiled in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon (Monday), as pressure ramps up on the government over record net migration. He claimed this will mean 300,000 fewer people will come to the UK.
Last month’s figures revealed a new net migration record of 745,000 in December 2022, while the latest data for the 12 months to June 2023 showed 672,000 more people arrived in the UK than left. In the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, the party promised to bring net migration below the data at the time, which was 224,000 from the 12 months to June 2019.
Instead, immigration has sky-rocketed, particularly since the UK left the EU in January 2020. The majority of this has been from foreign workers from outside the EU who, in particular, have been filling vacancies in the health and social care sector. The number of students coming to the UK has also risen, and the government will ban them from bringing dependents from next month unless they are studying a research postgraduate degree.
In an attempt to reduce net migration, Mr Cleverly told the Commons: “Migration to this country is far too high and needs to come down. Today we are taking more robust action than any government before to bring this down.” Mr Cleverly said that when the UK voted for Brexit, it voted to take back control of our borders.
The focus on the measures will likely be around how they will affect social care workers. Banning dependents could put people off from coming to work in the UK. Unison, the UK’s biggest care workers’ union, previously told NationalWorld that the sector would collapse without foreign workers.
Head of social care, Gavin Edwards, said: “Migrant workers are propping up a crumbling care system that the government refuses to fund properly.
“Ministers are happy to demonise migrant workers to appease its right-wing backbenchers, but the truth is social care would collapse without them. Instead of causing worry and concern to migrant care workers with these proposals, the government should be delivering the funding and reform the care sector so desperately needs.”
General secretary Christina McAnea added: “Migrant workers were encouraged to come here because both sectors are critically short of staff. Hospitals and care homes simply couldn’t function without them. There’s also a global shortage of healthcare staff. Migrants will now head to more-welcoming countries, rather than be forced to live without their families.
“The government is playing roulette with essential services just to placate its backbenchers and the far right. But if ministers stopped ducking the difficult issues and reformed social care, as they’ve long promised, there wouldn’t be such a shortage of workers.
“None of this is rocket science. Fund care properly and raise wages, and the sector becomes a more attractive place to work, but take away the migrant workers currently stopping care from going under and it collapses.”
The Health Foundation recently described the social care workforce situation as “dire”. Around one in 10 job vacancies across England are not filled, compared with one in every 29 jobs across the rest of the UK. Brexit initially contributed to a sharp rise in workforce shortages in 2021, and in 2022/23 the government allowed the recruitment of 70,000 staff from abroad.
The government said it believes it will still be able to fill social care vacancies, as previously these jobs were over subscribed. A Home Office spokesman confirmed that foreign workers already in the country would be able to keep dependants when they came to renew their visas.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Back in September we announced an additional package on students which will affect around 150,000 dependents, that comes in in January. We’ve acknowledged there’s more to do.
“We do have the ability to flex our system and we have responded to pressures we’ve faced, particularly around the Covid pandemic in the health and care sector. The numbers are too high, there is evidence of abuse in the system, and that’s what we will clamp down on today.”