The fact that the UK government’s plans for the health and care visa under the post-Brexit transition period immigration system will not include concessions for care home staff is likely to leave specialist recruitment agencies such as Adeline Recruits with much work to do.
Adeline Recruits provides nurses to both NHS hospitals and care homes and has been at the forefront of helping provide staff for the frontline in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast back in May, director Olusola Jeboda had expressed hope that her agency could continue conducting its work to provide human resources to the care sector and health service as they UK continues to grapple with the pandemic.
Jeboda said: “My business was founded to make sure that overseas nurses are looked after when they come to the UK and they have people there for them just to help transition to UK life.
“Over the course of the next 12 months, we want to do what we can to get more nurses in from the EU and elsewhere overseas to help bolster the health system and help the country be ready to adjust to living with Covid-19 for as long as necessary.”
However, home secretary Priti Patel’s recent outlining of the health and care visa system will have come as a blow, owed mainly to the inclusion of a minimum salary threshold of £20,480 which immediately excludes cleaners, porters and support staff roles in the NHS, as well as care home workers and contractors.
The government has justified its move by encouraging care providers to look to the UK’s domestic workforce to fill a shortfall of around 120,000 workers, in a profession where 17 per cent of care worker roles are occupied by foreigners, the Guardian reports.
Patel said: "At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.”
There has been backlash from elsewhere in the care industry already. Professor Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said that the decision could “destabilise the sector even further with potentially disastrous consequences”.
Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds was equally critical of the government’s move, saying: "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... it is yet another insult from this Tory party to those who have been at the frontline of this crisis."
Yet, there are still doors that are open for agencies. The National Care Forum, which represents voluntary care providers, has suggested that agencies such as Adeline Recruits will be looked to as a first port of call to plug the shortfall, but this could increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission and recruitment agencies called upon will have to take on the burden of managing that factor.
The Forum’s executive director, Vic Rayner, says that the system could bring about “unmitigated disaster”, particularly in London where 38 per cent of care workers are non-British.
Rayner said: “We have 122,000 vacancies, growing demand for our services, and then the tap is turned off like this.
“It is not good news at all. What you need for good care is a stable, skilled and plentiful workforce. And in the context of Covid-19, where you are trying to minimise movement of staff, any shortages might increase movement of staff and use of agency staff, which we are trying to avoid.”