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Minister Outlines Immigration Plans | Immigration Matters

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MINISTER OUTLINES PLANS AT HOME OFFICE MEETING

17th March 2006

At a special Home Office briefing for selected advisers and employers, Tony McNulty, Immigration Minister, outlined further details of the government’s plans to change the entire UK immigration system to one based on points.

Charles Kelly at Home Office meeting
with Immigration Minister, Tony McNulty

Radical measures include abolishing work permits and allowing employers to issue their own “employment certificates”

At a special Home Office briefing for selected advisers and employers, Tony McNulty, Immigration Minister, outlined further details of the government’s plans to change the entire UK immigration system to one based on points. Radical measures include abolishing work permits and allowing employers to issue their own “employment certificates”.

The current 80 entry schemes will be replaced by a single five tier points-based system (covered in detail in our previous issue), the aim being to only allow entry to those whose skills will benefit the UK. The new system will be phased in over the next two years and be fully operational by 2008. Last week the Home Office suddenly increased the qualifying period for applying for indefinite leave from four to 5 years, with effect from 3rd April 2006.

Employers, or sponsors as they are to be known, are to be given more responsibilities including deciding whether or not a worker is qualified for a position and issuing their own employment certificates. Sponsors will also be responsible for informing the Home Office when an employee leaves or fails to show. Tony McNulty said that the sponsor must be “far more readily part of the overall process” and added that ”immigration is good and makes a positive contribution”

Skills Advisory Body

The Skills Advisory Board (SAB) will supply information on where skills gaps exist and play a key role in effectively deciding who gets. One of the questions I put to Nicola Thomas, Deputy Director of Managed Migration was how care homes could recruit care staff from outside the EU when they clearly would not gain enough points under the new system. Nicola did not give a conclusive answer, but said they are aware of needs of the care industry. Another official said that Senior Carers would get in if they were categorised as a shortage occupation. Currently, carers and senior carers are not considered as a shortage occupation and work permits are not granted for anything below senior carer (NVQ3) level.

The industry needs to lobby the government

Various organisations are lobbying the government, particularly in the Indian and Chinese restaurant community. The Bangladeshi Catering Industry representatives were at the meeting in numbers, handing out leaflets and lobbying the Minister to allow in low skilled migrants and Chefs. Care industry groups will need to shout loud to make their voices heard.

As previously reported the points system is heavily weighted towards shortage occupations and higher paying jobs. Senior Carers will not qualify under the proposed system, which could also prevent employers from extending work permits for existing staff.

Cynthia Barker of Bison Management UK (www.recruitnurse.com) raised this point with Nicola Thomas asking her what would happen to the thousands of existing work permit holders if they did not qualify under the new points system. Nicola, a leading member of the team working on the new scheme, said that they would be subject to the new rules but added that this area is still under “consultation” and they are looking at some sort of “transitional” arrangement.

I asked Mr McNulty and the panel, which included representatives of The CBI and TUC and various members of the Home Office Managed Migration Team, to assure the care industry that the aim of attracting high flyers and investors, would not be prioritised at the expense of other equally important lower skilled workers such as Senior Carers. I went on to point out that Dame Denise Platt, Chair of the CSCI, has warned that “staff shortages are putting patients at risk” and that under the proposed points table Senior Carers would not qualify for a work permit. The minister refuted my suggestion denying that they were only concentrating on high flyers and went on to say that the government would act in the interest of the country. He then moved on and I was not given an opportunity to question him further. I did, however, manage to briefly talk to Mr McNulty after the meeting. I presented him with a copy of our book, “How 2 Come to the UK” and he kindly agreed to an exclusive interview for Healthcare Bi Weekly. I am awaiting a reply from his office and will keep you posted.

Mr McNulty admits that the finer details of the scheme have not been finalised. “We need your contribution” he told the audience, sending out a clear message that we can make a difference even at this late stage.

We still can persuade the government to take into account the special needs of the industry. I have written to Home Secretary Charles Clarke to request that government think again on the issue of care staff and revise the system for the sake of the thousands of care homes employing overseas workers. You can also email your comments to pointsbased.comments@ind.homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.

On the face of it many of these proposed changes seem to make sense. Who could argue against replacing eighty schemes with a five tier system (even if they are largely the same schemes repackaged)? Many organisations such as the CBI have “welcomed” plans to make the system more “transparent” and “user friendly”. The government’s presentation is polished and reassuring, however, when you start to scratch under the surface you realise that there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

If you should have any questions concerning any of the above issues please email Charles Kelly ckelly@recruitnurse.com

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