As the Government acknowledges that migration from the EU is falling, many in the Care Industry will be asking Immigration Minister Liam Byrne “how are we going to staff our Care Homes”?
According to statistics published by the Home Office last week, the number of Eastern European migrants coming to work in the UK “has fallen to its lowest level since accession to the European Union”.
Home Office figures show that “Between April and June 2008 there were 40,000 applications to the ‘Worker Registration Scheme’ from nationals of the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004 – the lowest level since accession, a drop of 14,000 from the same period last year and a fall of 9,000 from the first three months of this year”.
The number of Bulgarians and Romanians applying to work in the UK has also dropped to its lowest level since their accession to the EU in January 2007. Just 7,005 applications for worker cards and registration certificates were received by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) between April and June of this year, compared to 10,860 in the same period last year.
The figures confirm an ippr report, published in April of this year, and an earlier study by Centre for International Relations, which predicted that up to half the one million UK based Poles are expected to return home.
Employers in the Care and Restaurant industries are being “encouraged” to hire staff from within the EU instead of applying for Work Permits for non-EU workers.
But is this realistic? Care Homes have come to rely on its long term Filipino, Indian and African Nursing and Care staff to run their homes. Without overseas (non-EU) staff, usually brought here on Work Permits, hundreds of care homes would be forced to close by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), which regulates the industry, which has strict rules on staffing numbers.
The reality for Care Homes outside of the larger cities is that there are simply not enough local and EU workers available or willing to do the job.
Recruiters have found that Eastern European carers are more difficult to find and less willing to stay in the job than their overseas counterparts.
A key factor is the motivation to move to the UK to take up a low paid job. New EU nations such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are enjoying booming economies.
Jan Mokrzycki, president of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, recently said:
“The economy in Poland has picked up and unemployment has dropped down. There are jobs advertised all over the place. Manufacturers are looking for labour and especially skilled labour. In 2012 we have the football world championships coming. They are building stadiums and hotels and so there are jobs available.
“Adding to this – people want to go home because their friends and families are back there and if there is no economic necessity for them to remain in the UK, they will go back home.” he said.
In contrast, people in the Philippines or African countries see little or no future in returning home and are far more likely to settle in the UK.
Many recruitment firms have virtually given up recruiting carers from countries like Poland. Cynthia Barker of Bison UK acknowledges that whilst Eastern European’s are very good workers, finding qualified care staff and retaining them is another story.
“We ran a number of recruitment drives in Poland, but it was a waste of time”. Cynthia Said.
“Most of the candidates we interviewed could not speak English to the required level or really didn’t want to work in a care home, preferring instead to work in a hotel or bar in London. A large proportion only wanted to stay in the UK for six months to a year, which is clearly not much use to a Care Home owner spending a lot of money on CRB checks and induction training.
“Many of the successfully recruited candidates dropped out before starting the job and less than 10% of those who did eventually start were still there after six months.”
Romanian and Bulgarian workers are still subject to work restrictions, but can freely enter the UK without a visa. Once here, many exercise their treaty rights and register as self employed workers or as Students obtaining a Yellow Card.
Romanian and Bulgarian Students taking vocational or sandwich courses, such as NVQ in Health and Social Care, are allowed to work full time, as stated on their Yellow Cards.
Nursing and Care homes are snapping up these NVQ Students, as they struggle to keep their overseas Senior Carers due to Work Permit restrictions and the Government imposed £7.02 minimum salary.
Without Student labour, the staffing problems in the sector would be far worse. Which is why the recent UKBA announcement that “tough new rules” are on the way for foreign students, must be a worry for employers.
The Senior Carer Work Permit door has been firmly closed to new entrants. If the Government also turns the ‘NVQ Student’ tap off when Tier 4 of the Points Based System comes into force next year, employers, especially those in rural areas, are going to face serious problems maintaining legally enforceable staffing levels.