Pressures in the social care sector will increase after tougher immigration rules come into force when the Brexit transition period ends in December, a report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has warned.
Reviewing the inclusion of different fields in the shortage occupation list (SOL), the committee found social care to be facing a high number of short and long-term vacancies. It recommended that senior care workers and nursing assistants be added to the SOL to relieve pressures after free movement of people ends.
At the moment, most frontline occupations in the social care sector are ineligible for the skilled worker immigration route and the SOL.
While there is potential for a rise in labour supply to the care sector following job losses in other fields during the Covid pandemic, this could not be predicted with any certainty, the report said.
Several organisations interviewed by the committee said their ‘first focus for filling vacancies was to recruit from the local population, but that recruits were not always forthcoming to fill the roles given the pay and conditions offered, and so migration had become their fallback position’.
Local individuals have also been less willing to do ‘what is potentially more difficult and emotionally draining work compared to other occupations requiring a similar level of qualifications or training’, the stakeholders added.
The report concluded that it remains ‘crucial that the Government implements a more sustainable and generous funding model’ to make working in social care more attractive, adding that the risks of not doing so rapidly, particularly in response to Covid, are ‘stark’.
The committee said: ‘Migration is often a sensible response to a labour shortage that cannot rapidly be met by hiring domestic workers. This is often because it takes time to generate a new supply of domestic workers with the right skills and experience, and migration can help fill the gap.
‘However, we believe that migration alone cannot solve the care crisis in the UK more substantially, not because we underestimate the difficulties faced in the sector, but because migration will not solve underlying problems with pay and incentives that are fundamental to placing the social care sector on a sustainable footing. The fact that there is such high turnover in the sector highlights these problems.’