POINTS BASED SYSTEM UNVEILED – BAD NEWS FOR OVERSEAS CARE WORKERS
As previously reported by Immigration Matters, the government has finally unveiled its plans to change the entire UK immigration system to one based on points: the more in demand the skill, the more likely the individual will be able to come to the UK. In this special report we assess how the new rules will affect the care industry.
All the current work permits and entry schemes will be replaced by a five tier points-based system, the aim being to only allow entry to those whose skills will benefit the UK. The more skills you have, and the more those skills are in demand, the more points you will gain, increasing your likelihood of entry to the UK. European Union workers will not be affected.
THE FIVE TIERS
Tier One: Highly skilled
People in this category will automatically gain enough points to come to the UK without a job offer and seek work or set up a business. This group would include doctors, scientists, and top-flight entrepreneurs. Workers in this category will have the most flexibility in the UK and greatest opportunities to settle for good.
Tier two: Skilled with job offer
As expected this will cover people with qualifications or important work-related experience in a huge range of sectors from health service workers to white collar jobs and the trades. People in this category will be given points based on their talents and will be allowed into the UK if they have a job offer in a “shortage area” such as teaching or nursing. Those applying for workers to fill other jobs will have to go through the Resident Labour Market Test to prove the job cannot be filled by the resident workforce and workers will need to gain sufficient points to qualify – see below.
Tier three: Low skilled
The government has already started phasing out schemes which allow temporary migrants to fill low skilled jobs to jobs in the catering and hospitality sector. It will now end permissions for agricultural workers from outside the EU in favour of workers from the expanded European Union, although it adds that it may allow controlled quotas in certain sectors.
Tier four: Students
This covers students paying for tuition in the UK and reflects the importance that universities and colleges attach to income from overseas. Overseas students are said to be worth £5 billion to the economy.
Tier five: Temporary workers, Youth mobility
This will include professional sports people or professional musicians, who want to “work” in the UK for an event such as a football match or a concert. The youth mobility aspect is intended to cover cultural exchanges or working holidays by young people.
WHO DECIDES WHICH WORKERS ARE NEEDED?
The Home Office will establish an independent “Skills Advisory” board to supply accurate information on where the gaps exist and recommend changes. So, for instance, if in one year there is a shortage of care assistants in the UK, the board may recommend awarding more entry points to foreign carers. A few months later it may suggest cutting the points available as the gap is plugged.
There will be sanctions against overstaying. Workers in some sectors prone to abuse will be expected to hand over a financial bond, repayable when they leave at the end of their visa. Employers themselves will be fined £2,000 for each illegal worker.
The government says that the new system will effectively end the migration of low-skilled workers from outside the EU. This is however a complicated issue and the system allows the government to open up routes should shortages emerge.
Some organisations which lobbied the government during the consultation for the system argue that a block on low-skilled workers from outside the EU will exacerbate illegal migration. Two sectors which rely on cheap non-EU labour are cleaning companies and Indian and Chinese catering. They now have ex-Europe Minister Keith Vaz on their side expressing “reservations” about the scheme.
The care industry has been less vocal and at times I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness. Healthcare Bi-Weekly has warned that these new proposals will hurt employers and staff and at first glance of the government’s document our predications could be proved correct.
Senior Carers from countries like India and The Philippines could be frozen out altogether. The points system currently proposed seems heavily weighted towards shortage occupations, people applying for jobs paying over £18000 and those with UK equivalent degrees. Since a Senior Carer position is not currently considered as a shortage occupation, does not pay anywhere near £18000 and Filipino and Indian degrees are not considered by UK NARIC (the National Agency for the Department for Education and Skills) as UK equivalent, care homes are going to find it virtually impossible to employ care staff from outside the EU. This will not only stop new recruitment but prevent employers from extending work permits for existing staff.
POINTS-BASED SYSTEM – PROPOSED TABLE
The pass-mark for the table is 50. Points can be scored in each of the 3 columns.
Qualifications: Prospective Earnings Others
NVQ3 5 points £15-18 5 points Job Offer in 50 points
or £18-19.5 10 points or
Bachelors 10 points £19.5-21 15 points Job Offer passes 30 points Resident Labour
or £21+ 20 points or
Masters 10 points ICT – defined by:
6 months previous
Employment with 50 points
or the firm; minimum
PhD 15 points NVQ3 level job;
to the UK
The above table, which is still “subject to revision following further modelling”, illustrates that a person requires 50 points to qualify for a work permit. People applying for jobs in “shortage occupation” areas such as nursing will qualify automatically, but others will face stiff tests. They would need a UK equivalent Bachelors degree and be applying for a job that pays more than £18000. The problem for people applying from countries like the Philippines, India or Pakistan is that their qualifications are unlikely to be classed as UK equivalent. To add to their woes the salary range for a Senior is from £11500 to around £15000.
I was speaking at the “Skills to Care Event” last week, organised by the Surrey Care Association. Erica Lockhart, the Chief Executive of Surrey Care Association Ltd, estimates that between 60% – 70% of staff employed in care homes in the Surrey area have come from overseas.
When care homes are already struggling to fill vacancies and Dame Denise Platt, Chair of the CSCI, is warning that “staff shortages are putting patients at risk” the last thing we need is an immigration crackdown.
The Home Office are holding a series of meetings for employers this month and have said are still prepared to listen. This could be our last opportunity to influence the government on behalf of the industry. I strongly urge you to lobby your local MP or The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to revise the system to take into account the needs of the care industry and the elderly people of this country.
Whilst we all accept that the country needs highly skilled people and entrepreneurs, what the industry needs right now is care staff not high flying scientists.
Finally, if you are thinking about employing staff from overseas act now!