Tory ministers face fury after pushing through new immigration rules that will block the vast majority of social care workers from coming to work in the UK.
Under the “reckless” plans, there will be no dedicated route for any junior-level care home staff to come to the UK for work from January.
They will also not be allowed to apply under a dedicated ‘Health and Care Visa’.
Instead, junior-level care home staff will only be allowed to come to the UK if they happen to arrive another way, other than the “skilled” route.
This could include coming to Britain as a student, under a Youth Mobility Scheme, or as a dependent family member of someone already here.
The “insulting” and “reckless” plans are included in a major blueprint for the UK’s future immigration system – which will apply equally to EU and non-EU nationals from 1 January 2021.
The blanket ban comes despite figures suggesting 350,000 care workers were born outside the EU.
Rehana Azam, National Secretary at the GMB union, branded the new rules “incompetence” and an “embarrassing shambles”.
She added: “The proposed ‘Health and Care Visa’ apparently fails to include care workers and NHS contractors within its scope.
“It imposes salary thresholds that would prevent most underpaid care workers and many NHS porters, cleaners, and other support staff from qualifying for in any event.
“Who will keep our hospitals running and our care home going when ministers pull up the drawbridge?”
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds asked “what Ministers have against care workers.”
He added: “To exclude care workers from the health visa is a clear signal that this Government does not appreciate the skill and dedication these roles involve.
“Frankly, it is yet another insult from this Tory party to those who have been at the frontline of this crisis.”
Liberal Democrat leadership contender Layla Moran said: “How can Boris Johnson clap for carers one day then refuse to give them a visa the next.
“It is disgraceful that those risking their lives each day helping vulnerable people during this pandemic are being told they’re not skilled enough to qualify for a visa.
“This an incredibly reckless decision at a time when there are already over 120,000 job vacancies in social care.
“Our social care system relies on many overseas workers – we should be welcoming them in not shutting them out.”
Government sources insisted the Migration Advisory Committee had said there was no need for a specific route for care workers.
Under the new rules, published today, “skilled” workers can only get a UK work visa if they fill all four of these conditions:
- They have a job offer from a licensed sponsor
- They speak English to an acceptable standard
- They’ll earn £20,480 or more (sometimes higher)
- The job is at skill level RQF3 (A-level) or higher
They must then also earn 20 extra “tradeable” points – such as by having a higher salary, working in a shortage job, or having a PhD.
But it is understood the majority of social care workers won’t pass the basic test for a skilled worker because their skill level is RQF1, not RQF3.
Care “managers” are listed in a blueprint for skilled jobs, but government sources said junior care workers mostly won’t qualify under that route.
There will be a Health and Care Visa to give fast-track entry, dedicated support and a discount on the £610 standard visa application fee.
But those applicants must still meet the same basic threshold as a “skilled worker” – meaning most junior care home workers will still be excluded.
The list of occupations allowed to apply for the visa does not include social care workers at all, even if they do pass the threshold.
Instead, the Visa list includes jobs such as social workers, opticians, dentists, podiatrists and speech therapists alongside other NHS Staff.
Government sources confirmed the Health and Care Visa was “not designed to be a generic route for care workers”.
And Downing Street confirmed social care workers would not be able to take advantage of the new visa.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We want employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country.
“On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5 billion of funding for social care in 2021/22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign.”
EU nationals who already work in UK care homes can apply to stay “and a very large number have done so”, the spokesman said.
“Those people will remain in the UK providing really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable,” he added.
Asked if there will be enough people coming in to work in the social care system, Boris Johnson told reporters: “I do.
“Don’t forget one of the amazing things we’ve seen in the last few months is actually there are more EU nationals, I’m proud to say, living and working in this country than we even thought.
“We’re seeing huge numbers of people registering for their right to remain and that’s great so we have a big, big stock of workers who are helping out in this country who have come from abroad.
“Although of course we are going to be taking back control and we are controlling our immigration system we’re not going to be simply slamming the gates and stopping anybody anywhere coming into this country.
“Where people can contribute to this country, where people want to make their lives and do great things for this country, of course we’re going to have a humane and sensible system.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel published a 130-page document on the proposed immigration system today.
It confirms foreign criminals sentenced to more than a year in jail could be banned from entering Britain.
The change would mean criminals from the European Union are treated the same as currently happens to those from non-EU countries.
Anyone sentenced to more than a year’s jail in the UK would be lined up for deportation.
Those seeking to come to the UK can also be refused entry if they have:
- Committed an offence which caused serious harm
- Are a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law
- Their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good.
There will be no cap on student or worker numbers and the Resident Labour Market Test will be scrapped.
Instead each “skilled” job will need to be sponsored and meet salary and skills thresholds, with employers paying £1,000 per job in the first year.
In total migrants will need 70 points to have their application approved, 20 of which are “tradeable”.
There is no “unskilled” route, but students and dependant family members will be able to come to the UK.
Spouses, partners and children under 18 will count as dependants, as can other family members in some cases.
A Graduate Route will be launched in summer 2021 allowing students to stay for two years after the end of their degree, to look for work.
This will be three years for PhD graduates.
Ms Patel said on Sunday: “The British people voted to take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based immigration system.
“Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from 1 January 2021.
“Britain is open for business and ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent.”
Full list of professions that will qualify for the ‘Health and Care Visa’
Biological scientists and biochemists
Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
Speech and Language Therapists
Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified