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Government must act on senior carer Work Permits to prevent crisis | Immigration Matters

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The UK Border Agency has outlined details of the new points based system with Tier 2 being rolled out by September. In this edition Immigration Matters examines the impact these changes are already having on staffing in the care sector.

A large ‘staffing hole’ has been left by overseas Senior Carers being forced to leave the UK in the last 12 months, because they were unable to renew their Work Permits due to inflexible criteria changes or the “going rate” salary of £7.02 not being met.

UK Border Agency revised ‘transitional’ measures in January 2008 has enabled Senior Carers to transfer to employers able to pay the Home Office imposed salary, leaving those homes unable to do so short of experienced staff.

With Work Permits drying up, and UK and Eastern European staff still not coming into the industry in sufficient numbers, employers are increasingly turning to student labour to fill the vacancies.

In addition, growing numbers of overseas workers are switching jobs in order to obtain the maximum 5 year Work Permit, ahead of the introduction of Tier 2 (for skilled workers) this September.

The Home Office has made it clear that Senior Carers are unlikely to meet the strict new criteria, and that the job could be put into Tier 3 for low skilled workers, and the current transitional arrangement only runs until the start of the points system.

A Care Home manager in Dorset called me last Friday to say that six of his Filipino Senior Carers had just handed in their notice at the same time. All had been offered jobs with an employer willing to arrange a 5 year Work Permit.

He is unable to extend their Work Permits until three months prior to expiry in 2009, at which time they will need at least one more year to meet the changed requirement for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Whilst he sympathises with his staff’s desire to secure their long term stay in the UK, six people walking out will cause huge problems for his business and could put patients at risk.

These events have put a considerable strain on staff-strapped employers, already struggling to meet CSCI standards. Staff shortages can, in extreme circumstances, lead to the closure of a care home.

But more worrying for owners is that under the ‘star rating’ system, a mark down during an inspection for lack of staff could result in Local Authorities putting a bar on patient referrals. One nursing home owner told me that due to the high turnover of Local Authority patients, such a move would put him out of business within six months.

Time for the Government to act

Immigration Matters has seen an unconfirmed copy of a letter from a Minister promising help for Senior Carers in the form of an extended “transitional arrangement”, and now calls on the Home Office to make an announcement to stabilise the situation and avoid further panic ‘job hopping’.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne last year toured the UK and must be aware of the growing problem. Industry leaders, Unions, The Philippine Embassy and various organisations and trade bodies, such as ECCA and NCA, have all made representations.

We now want to know exactly what Mr Byrne intends doing to help the thousands of Work Permit holders who will clearly not meet the points criteria.

The Government must act now to prevent a catastrophic staffing crisis in the industry. Any further dithering will, as in last year’s banking crisis, be disastrous for the industry. The “consultations” have gone on long enough.

There are a number of measures which could be taken to help all Work Permit holders and their employers:

  • Announce an immediate extension of transitional arrangements, allowing Senior Carers to renew permits and Further Leave to Remain without meeting revised guidance and the points-based criteria.

  • Allow employers to apply for 5 year Work Permit extensions earlier than three months so that applications can be made prior to the points system.

  • Better still, why not put everyone, including the Home Office, out of its misery and grant Senior Carers with four year Work Permits permanent residency or ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR)? Those with four years continuous work would have qualified for ILR had changes to the qualifying period in 2006 not been unfairly applied retrospectively.

If the Home Office grant indefinite stay to asylum seekers under the so called “legacy” cases concession (or amnesty as some have called it), the Government has a duty to help the thousands of overseas workers who look after the vulnerable people of this country.

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