The Borders and Immigration Agency (Home Office) are refusing virtually all Senior Carer Work Permits, prompting widespread fears that no further permits will be granted for new or existing overseas staff.
Since January 2007 the Borders and Immigration Agency (formerly Work Permits UK), has drastically reduced the number of Work Permits issued for Senior Carers, according to employers and agents.
A HR Manager for one of the UK’s largest care providers told me that for the last three months the Home Office has “frozen us out”.
“We have not been getting any Senior Carer Work Permits since January and they are even blocking requests to move someone from one home to another” she continued.
“All the leading agencies are having problems with the Home Office and have seen very few Senior Carer Work Permits this year. Whilst we have still managed to obtain some Work Permits, the numbers are substantially down on last year”.
Thousands could be forced to leave
Cynthia is very worried about the fate of existing Work Permit holders applying for extensions, as the Home Office are also refusing many of these applications.
“We have a large number of Senior Carers due for renewal this year. If this trend continues, many thousands of overseas workers, and their families, will be forced to leave the UK” she said.
I have had several off the record conversations with Caseworkers at the Borders and Immigration Agency and some have said that they are “awaiting new guidelines” while others admitted that they are refusing all Senior Carer applications.
If this proves to be the case, it will be seen as grossly unfair to applicants who have paid non-refundable fees of £190.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“Each work permit application is considered on its own merits, on a case-by-case basis. Work permits are granted where the criteria are met.
“Work permits are issued for jobs which meet specified skills criteria. These criteria were agreed through public consultation as the best means of striking a balance between allowing employers to recruit people with the skills they need, whilst protecting employment opportunities for resident workers.”
I put it to the Press Office that it would appear the Home Office are refusing almost all Senior Carer Work Permits. The spokesperson said that it was unlikely that one particular sector would be targeted and declined to comment further.
We already know from comments following compliance visits on Care Homes that there is a view within the Home Office that the Senior Carer Work Permit route has been open to abuse.
Official statistics are not available for the number of Work Permits issued in the last quarter, but I would expect to see a dramatic reduction when figures are eventually released.
Elderly Patients could be put at risk by staff shortages
This raises the question as to how the Care Industry will cope without their overseas staff. There is hardly a Care Home in the country which doesn’t employ Filipino, Indian or African staff.
You cannot just remove hundreds if not thousands of workers from Care Homes without serious repercussions.
As Dame Denise Platt, Chair of CSCI, warned on the staff shortage issue: “Patients will be put at risk”.
With the industry’s staffing needs obviously not being met by the resident labour force or from newly arriving Eastern Europeans, the Home Office needs to come up with a radical solution to this on-going problem.
One solution could be a special ‘overseas care worker scheme’ along the lines of the ‘Sector Based Scheme’ which allowed temporary admission for low skilled workers. Non-EU carers could be issued with a one or two year Work Permit as a Care Assistant. Employers could be required to put up a bond to ensure migrants return home at the end of the permit.
To the Government:
The Care Industry needs overseas workers and if Senior Carer Work Permits are no longer going to be issued, we must have an alternative viable scheme.
To Care Industry leaders:
This is your final wake up call and there is no more time to hit the snooze button.
If you should have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.