A report published by Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) says that a failure to attract British workers to the care sector and Tier 2 visa restrictions are contributing to the crippling of the adult social care sector. The report states that within 20 years, the sector faces a potential shortfall of one million workers.
The ILC-UK has said that Tier 2 immigration restrictions must be relaxed to allow care homes to recruit more staff from overseas. In addition more funding needs to be provided to enable higher salaries to be paid and retain those already employed in the UK in the carer sector. Simon Bottery, the director of policy at Independent Age, said: "Non-action will lead to a decline in quality care services."
"A combination of care providers failing to recruit and existing staff struggling to cope with increasing demand, care services will worsen. For the older generation that can only mean bad news as they rely on such services for assistance with basic tasks like eating and getting dressed," Mr Bottery added.
Mr Bottery went on to say that social care is currently reliant on the Tier 2 immigration system to enable the recruitment of foreign workers and that the process of bringing staff to the UK from overseas needs to be simplified. However, he also acknowledged that other steps also need to be taken to make sure that there are sufficient workers in the social care sector in the long-term.
'The government must use the upcoming Spending Review [due to be published on 25 November 2015] as an opportunity to invest in social care,' Mr Bottery suggested. 'This would enable the sector to attract more British workers, plus give an opportunity to explore new ways of providing care for the ageing population in the future,' he added.
Britain's care sector struggling to recruit and retain staff
Currently, nearly 1.45 million people are employed across the adult social care sector in England. The ILC-UK report says that the country is facing difficulties recruiting and retaining staff across the industry. Of all the existing adult social care positions in England, one in 20 are vacant.
The report stresses that lack of staff is not the only factor contributing to the pressure that the adult social care sector faces. A rapidly ageing population leading to increased demand for carer services, combined with massive cuts to social care funding mean that the outlook is bleak unless radical changes are made.
Care sector reliant on Tier 2 immigration
According to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC):
- For every five workers in social care across England, one was born outside the UK. IN In the social care sector there are 150,000 staff working in residential care homes and 81,000 employed in adult domiciliary care
- Due to a new Tier 2 immigration income threshold for applications for permanent residence after five years in the UK coming into force in April 2016, 1,700 high-skilled workers employed across the adult care sector could be forced to leave the UK if their salary is less than £35,000
- Migrants outside of the European Union (EU) make up the largest number of foreign nationals employed across the UK adult social care sector. For every seven care workers, one is born outside of the EU
Both Independent Age and the ILC-UK want to see action that will make it easier for social care providers to recruit from abroad, including:
- The addition of highly-skilled jobs in the adult care sector to the UK's Shortage Occupation List
- Bringing back the discontinued Tier 3 visa route to allow low-skilled migrants entry to the UK to fill social care vacancies.
Ben Franklin, the Head of the Economics of Ageing at ILC-UK, said: "Allowing migrant workers to fill workforce gaps is just part of the solution, but it's no silver bullet. We need to equip the care sector for attracting UK and overseas workers alike."
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