Brexit: MAC warns of ‘stark consequences’ in social care

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Senior care worker and nursing assistant roles should be added to the shortage occupation lists to relieve pressure when freedom of movement ends on 1 January 2021, according to the Migration Advisory Committee.

The MAC, which provides independent advice on migration issues to the government, has warned of the “stark consequences” of low wages in social care, with most frontline occupations in the sector ineligible for the skilled worker route and the shortage occupation lists.

We would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social care sector, something that would be particularly difficult to understand at a time when so many care occupations are central to the Covid-19 pandemic frontline response” – Brian Bell, MAC chair

In its 2020 review, it has reiterated the need to make jobs more attractive to UK workers by increasing salaries rather than relying on migrants, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, Prof Brian Bell, chair of the MAC, said: “The MAC has argued for some years now that funding social care to a level that enables higher wages to be paid, and consequently makes jobs more attractive to the domestic workforce, is the right way to address the workforce issues in the sector, rather than relying on migrant workers to fill the gaps.

“We continue to hold this view. However, the risks of this funding increase not happening in a timely manner are stark. If that does not occur, or occurs with substantial delay, we would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social care sector, something that would be particularly difficult to understand at a time when so many care occupations are central to the Covid-19 pandemic frontline response.”

Bell added that the number of migrants coming to work in the UK has already decreased and with the an expected increase in unemployment it had been a “very challenging time” to look at the shortage occupation lists.

Other occupations which the MAC says should be added to the UK-wide list include butchers, bricklayers and welders, where there is clear evidence of staff and skills shortages which could be filled by overseas workers.

The MAC has also recommended additions to separate lists for all of the devolved nations, allowing additional flexibility and reflecting the different needs of each. This includes fishmongers, bakers and horticultural workers for Northern Ireland, childminders and nursery nurses for Scotland and health professionals for Wales.

The report also proposes that a minor review of all shortage occupation lists takes place annually, with a major review taking place every three years.

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