Immigration bill reveals social care workers will be excluded from government’s new health care visa

Boris Johnson speaks with health care professionals. Photograph: Peter Summers/PA.

Boris Johnson speaks with health care professionals. Photograph: Peter Summers/PA. - Credit: PA

Priti Patel's immigration bill has ruled out overseas social care workers being able to apply for a new health care visa, which will act as a route for key health professionals to work in the UK.

In what has been branded 'another kick in the teeth for the care sector,' the prime minister's official spokesman confirmed the reports, by explaining: '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.'

Existing European Union workers in the care sector could apply to stay in the UK through the settlement scheme 'and a very large number have done so', the spokesman said.

Boris Johnson said the UK will have a 'humane and sensible' immigration system despite 'taking back control' after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

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Asked if he thinks there will be enough people coming in to work in the social care system, the prime minister told reporters: 'I do,' adding: '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.'

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Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour's shadow home secretary, said: 'Anyone reading the government paper on immigration today will be asking themselves what ministers have against care workers.

'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 Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine branded the move 'utterly outrageous'.

'Without our social care workers, the most vulnerable in our society would suffer immeasurably. And yet their work is not deemed of sufficient value to this callous Conservative government. This is a deeply short-sighted move that risks stretching the sector to breaking point, with 120,000 vacancies to fill.

'Priti Patel might consider social care workers to be unskilled, but the coronavirus pandemic reminds us they are anything but. The Liberal Democrats will oppose these destructive policies and continue our fight for a fair, effective immigration system that works for our economy and society, and treats everyone with dignity and respect.'

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, described the move as 'patently the wrong decision'.

'Reforming and refinancing care will take time, if it happens at all, so the prudent approach would be to keep the door open to EU-based social care staff at all levels for 3-5 years at least,' she tweeted.

Best for Britain's Naomi Smith said it was another 'kick in the teeth for the care sector'.

'Having been already put under immense strain during this pandemic, the sector now faces staffing shortages in 2021 as a result of changes made by the Immigration Bill.

'The home secretary must now recognise that UK immigration policy should be based on the needs of our economy and ageing society, and not directed by outdated views of public sentiment towards immigrants. Voters know that care workers, are indeed, essential workers.'

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