Stretched Care Sector Faces Loss of 460,000 Workers

General Union GMB has warned the Government that the UK’s care system is facing a “black hole” due to expected staff shortages of 460,000 if new immigration policies are carried out as planned.

As many of those working in the field are deemed “low skilled” by the Home Secretary, and would not meet the £25,600 minimum annual salary, potential care staff from overseas are effectively banned from coming to the UK to take up the vital jobs.

The UK care industry could be in for a ‘catastrophe’ without amendments being made to their salary or the immigration rules. [Image: Recruiter].

Skills for Care published data in 2019 stating the average salary of a care worker in Britain is £16,200, clearly significantly less than the minimum salary threshold proposed in the new immigration policies.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlight that the sector relies on 350,000 international workers with this figure set to increase. Estimates of vacancies in adult social care are at 110,000, which has an alarmingly high vacancy rate of 8%, leading the GMB union to point out the Government’s plans suggest a gap of 460,000. A fifth of the UK’s care workforce are not UK-born.

When [the Government] uses terms likes “low skilled” about these vital jobs, many of which are severely underpaid and on insecure rotas brought about by zero-hour contracts, how can it attract ambitious young UK citizens?

National Officer at GMB, Rachel Harrison, said: “Care in the UK is facing almost a 500,000-person black hole thanks to the government’s insulting immigration policy and failure to properly fund the sector.”

Care staff are not being considered for any special route, with some migrants such as scientists, NHS staff and those coming to work in agriculture being granted certain privileges to assist them with complicated immigration processes.

The Home Secretary maintains that “economically inactive” people in the UK could assist to bridge the gap in so-called “low skilled” jobs, ignoring the fact many economically inactive people include retired elderly individuals, disabled individuals and home carers themselves who are unable to enter the labour workforce.

The GMB union has warned the Government it faces a loss of almost half a million workers. [Image: Skysports.]

The Migration Advisory Committee has always warned care faces “very real problems”, linked to a lack of sustainable funding. It has also stated that the £25,600 salary rule will lead to “increase[d] pressure” on care.

Care staff are not being considered for any special route

The Home Office has responded to the criticism, stating senior care workers will still be able to access the UK through the points-based system. However, this still ignores the need for junior care staff, those who aren’t yet “senior” in terms of rank or salary.

The Home Office claims it has “recently launched a national recruitment campaign”, but when it uses terms likes “low skilled” about these vital jobs, many of which are severely underpaid and on insecure rotas brought about by zero-hour contracts, how can it attract ambitious young UK citizens?

GMB’s Harrison criticised the Government for refusing to acknowledge the dismal rates of pay for care staff, the lack of recognition of their vital work and the many barriers in their way for progression.

She added: “The Government has no plan for filling the black hole of almost half a million workers that could result from their policy.”

Indeed, what is the Government’s plan? Force the “economically inactive” members of society into care? Ask retired elderly individuals, or those with complex additional needs and disabilities to take on the often highly demanding emotional and physical requirements of a care role?

So far, it appears that this model is their only solution to what is going to be a catastrophe.