Temporary immigration cap leading to recruitment shortages

UK employers are being stopped from hiring much-needed staff from outside the EU following the introduction of a temporary immigration cap.

An interim limit of 24,100 non-EU skilled workers entering the country before April 2011 was imposed in July, ahead of a permanent immigration cap.

But there is evidence that the temporary cap is already negatively affecting crucial social-care roles, where vacancy rates are as high as 38% in some councils. In a submission to the Migration Advisory Committee, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), stated: “We are aware of two specific examples of where the interim cap is having an immediate detrimental effect on local authorities’ abilities to fulfil their safeguarding and child protection responsibilities.”

The report referred to two unnamed local authorities in the South East anticipating the arrival of social workers from the US and Canada that are now limited by the cap.

Jeremy Oppenheim, the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) national lead for temporary migration, said: “Under the interim limit, employers that urgently need to fill jobs in key-shortage occupations, including children and families’ social work, can seek additional permits. There is already a streamlined route to recruit overseas social workers working with children and families, as the profession is on the UKBA’s shortage occupation list.”

But the ADCS responded: “We are aware, of course, that it is possible for an employer to make an exceptional case to UKBA for exceeding its quota but this is a lengthy and extremely bureaucratic process.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Lorna Reith, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Haringey Council, said: “I will be writing to the Government to seek clarification about the impact of the immigration cap.

“It is a concern that this cap could affect our ability to recruit experienced social workers from outside the EU.

“With the national shortage of social workers, last year and earlier this year we recruited social workers from America.  Had it been in place at the time, an immigration cap could have affected that very successful recruitment drive.”

And it isn’t just public sector employers feeling the strain. John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “The interim cap is causing serious problems for many firms. The figures used were artificially low as they were based on numbers at the height of the recession in 2009.”

Julia Onslow-Cole, head of global immigration at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told Personnel Today: “[The interim cap is] having a major impact on the private sector. It’s positive that the economy is growing enough to be doing the recruiting, but these are people we really need in the UK. They have cultural industry expertise that we don’t have.”

However, Onslow-Cole believed the tide may be turning: “I am hopeful the Government is beginning to understand the issues. It must look at ways to alleviate the pressure on the interim cap.

“The experience that businesses are having is a good test of what a final cap should look like.”

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