BBC Wales has reported that many Filipino care workers across Wales may be forced to leave the UK because of a change in immigration rules.
As Immigration Matters’ readers will be aware, the Home Office says employers must pay staff an hourly wage of at least £7.02 to gain work permits.
But care homes cannot afford to pay that much – so families could have to leave Wales and return to the Philippines.
The report, for the ‘Dragon’s Eye’ programme goes on to say that “many Filipinos have moved to Wales to work as senior care workers in homes looking after elderly and vulnerable people”.
Lorina Mison, a worker in a care home in Rhyl, Denbighshire, is due to fly back to the Philippines on Sunday.
A single mother who supports her two children in the Philippines, she told BBC Wales’s Dragon’s Eye programme she felt hopeless.
“I feel homeless – I have nothing,” she said.
“I didn’t save anything because I support my kids back home to give them all the best and to send them to a good school.”
Father Charles Ramsey, a Catholic priest in Rhyl, said three Filipino families in his congregation would have to leave before Christmas, with 11 others due to go before Easter.
The Border and Immigration Agency’s (BIA) ruling over work permits is designed to protect employment opportunities for UK resident and EU workers and it is estimated that more than 20,000 senior care workers in the UK are affected.
Gemma Domingo, a nurse with over 20 years’ experience has to leave in January, feared her job prospects in the Philippines are bleak.
“I’m going to be 50 soon,” she said. “In the Philippines they like new graduates and younger generation to take jobs… going back, to me, is frustrating, disgusting and we don’t know what to do to get income.”
Paul Bates of the European Care Group, which runs a dozen care and nursing homes in the Rhyl area, said higher wages were unaffordable because in many cases services were commissioned by local authorities, which had tight budgets.
“It’s a question of commercial viability,” he said. “We simply couldn’t do it.
“There was no direct consultation with us – the new rules came as something of a shock.”
Each week my office receives an increasing number of calls and emails from worried Senior Carers who have been given a month’s notice, as their employers are unable to pay the BIA’s minimum salary.
On Friday Lorraine, a Filipina Senior Support Worker specialising in Learning Disability care, came in to say a sad “goodbye” to the Bison UK team who brought her to the UK. Her employer, where she has worked for two years, cannot pay the £7.02 per hour required to renew her work permit, so she has no choice but to leave the UK.
The good news for Lorraine is that she has found a country which values her skills – Canada. Lorena has landed a job in Canada, which offers working migrants permanent residency after just two years.
The Home Office said: “We have put in place transitional measures to ensure care services are not disrupted and vulnerable people in life-threatening situations are not put at risk.
“Senior care workers who have previously been issued work permits will be able to apply for an extension which will be granted if they meet the skills criteria.
“The work permit arrangements are designed to strike a balance between allowing employers to recruit people with the skills they need, while protecting employment opportunities for resident workers.”
Whilst we all agree with Gordon Brown’s sentiment of “British jobs for British workers”, the fact is that care homes are unable to recruit sufficient staff from the local work force to fill their vacancies.
With up to 20,000 workers affected by these new rules the industry is heading for a staffing crisis. The government must act now and allow these valuable care workers to stay in the UK, otherwise patients will be put at risk and many homes will be forced to close down under strict CSCI rules.
Employers struggling to find and retain staff cannot expect much sympathy from Immigration Minister Liam Byrne. In a speech to the London School of Economics this week the former minister in the Department of Health was nominated as “Older Peoples’ Champion of the Year by Help the Aged” said:
“We are not running immigration policy on the exclusive interests of the UK business community, we are running it in Britain‘s national interest.”
More on Dragon’s Eye on Thursday at 2100 on BBC 2W and 2230 on BBC1 Wales.