The UK Government’s announcement in December to maintain work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians will bring little New Year cheer to the staff-strapped Care Industry.
The decision to prolong restrictions on the latest EU members was taken following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), in order to protect the interests of British workers and ensure that migrant workers “who come here to work are the people we need – and no more”.
Access to British jobs for Bulgarians and Romanians has been limited since they joined the European Union in January 2007, allowing only skilled and highly skilled workers to come here to work.
Low-skilled jobs has been restricted to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and the Sector Based Scheme (SBS) for food processing.
The Government says that the decision to keep restrictions in place means “that the UK can continue to benefit from the positive economic contribution Bulgarian and Romanian workers make”, and will continue to monitor the “impacts of their accession on the labour market and the country as a whole”.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“It is essential that only those we need can come here to work and that is why we have decided to continue restricting the work that Bulgarian and Romanians can do here.
“This is a prudent decision that will ensure the UK continues to benefit from the positive economic contribution Bulgarian and Romanian workers make, while protecting British workers and making sure the numbers coming here are managed in the national interest.
“We have already suspended tier three of the points based system to stop low skilled migrants from outside the European Economic Area entering the UK.”
The Home Office has increased the quota for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, following advice from the MAC which identified shortages in the agricultural industry.
With Care Workers and Nurses still in short supply, the move will be seen by many as further evidence of Government’s lack of understanding of the staffing needs of the Care Industry.
In 2007, the decision to restrict Work Permits for Senior Carers caused outrage and widespread chaos in the care sector, as hundreds of valuable staff members were deported.
Thousands more lives are still in the balance following the introduction of the Points Based System, under which less than five thousand employers have registered.
The forthcoming Citizenship Bill will see more Work Permit holders fall under the axe as rules on Indefinite Leave to Remain are changed yet again.
Bulgarians and Romanians could have filled many of the vacancies which still exist in care homes, despite the economic downturn.
Although Romanian and Bulgarian workers are still subject to work restrictions, they 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, and 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, is a worry for employers.
If the Government restricts NVQ Student from coming to the UK when Tier 4 of the Points Based System comes into force next year, employers, especially those in rural areas, will face serious problems maintaining legally enforceable staffing levels.