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SOCIAL-CARE wages must increase “as a matter of urgency” to avoid further pressure on the sector when freedom of movement ends, government advisers said today.
The sector, whose workforce includes 17 per cent non-British workers, is expected to face huge staffing shortages next year when the country leaves the EU.
The government’s migration advisory committee (Mac) warned today that unless pay was increased to make the role “attractive” to British workers, the sector was likely to face “an increase in pressure” in the midst of the pandemic.
Senior care workers and nursing assistants can be added to the shortage occupation list, which helps migrants to get visas for roles where there are shortages, the committee said, to relieve pressure after January 1.
But the majority of nursing roles do not qualify, with just one in 10 staff seen as senior care workers.
The Mac, which advises the government on what roles should be added to the list, warned that if the pay rise did not occur or was delayed, “we would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social-care sector.”
Mac chairman Professor Brian Bell said the country had already seen the number of migrants coming to work in Britain decrease.
“We remain particularly concerned about the social-care sector, which is so central to the front-line response to this health pandemic, as it will struggle to recruit the necessary staff if wages do not increase as a matter of urgency,” he said.
The government wants to impose a new points-based immigration system with minimum salary thresholds.
But its plans have been widely condemned, with critics accusing the government of “rank hypocrisy” for closing the door on foreign key workers.
Dame Donna Kinnair, the Royal College of Nursing chief executive, said: “We agree with the recommendation that nursing support workers and assistants across health and care be added to the shortage occupation list.
“But with tens of thousands of vacancies across the UK, these changes alone won’t end the workforce crisis which threatens the safe and effective care of patients.
“The government must remove all arbitrary barriers that prevent talented and much needed health and care professionals working in the UK, including removal of the unfair tax for using the services they deliver.
“It must also progress a clear well-funded plan to grow and develop our existing workforce and domestic routes into nursing.”
Social-care workers’ union Unison said that the Mac report exposes the government’s “muddled immigration plan.”
Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The report exposes the depth of the crisis facing the care sector and the lack of a coherent government plan to deal with low pay and chronic staff shortages.
“The decision to make it more difficult for overseas care workers to fill the glut of vacancies is creating an unnecessary recruitment timebomb.”
Ms McAnea echoed calls for the sector to be properly funded and wages increased.
“Any delay in doing so only adds to the pressure on staff still reeling from the first Covid wave while preparing to tackle a second,” she added.
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