The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has said the Government's post-Brexit immigration proposals would shrink the social care workforce by an estimated 3% and increase pressures on the sector.

The MAC report looked at how to implement ministers’ ambitions for a points-based immigration system, which would replace free movement from the European Economic Area (EEA).

It admitted the proposals would hit social care but added that the sector’s problems were caused by low pay and a lack of funding rather than immigration policy.

The report said: “We remain of the view that the very real problems in this sector are caused by a failure to offer competitive terms and conditions, something that is itself caused by a failure to have a sustainable funding model.”

MAC recommendations, set out in the report, include retaining the current Tier 2 visa, which covers skilled migrants with a job offer, but apply it to EEA as well as non-EEA citizens, and to medium-skills as well as high-skills roles.

They would also reduce the current minimum salary for this group from £30,000 to £25,600.

While MAC argued that the threshold would stop the undercutting of the labour market, care leaders have voiced concerns that the workforce shortages in social care will only get worse. Care England Chief Executive Martin Green has said he would like to see the salary threshold reduced to £15,000.

The social care workforce would be reduced if the proposed changes were implemented due to the reduced supply of EEA migrants, according to the MAC report. This would not be offset by any fall in demand for care from EEA citizens or the fact that most jobs in the sector fell below the salary cap.

One in six staff working in adult social care in England has a non-British nationality, according to King’s Fund Senior Fellow Simon Bottery. He said these workers are crucial for the viability of social care services, "which are struggling to cope with approximately 122,000 vacancies at any one time."

He said: “By prioritising higher-paid workers, the (MAC) recommendations for a points-based visa system would effectively shut the door to thousands of people who are desperately needed to shore up the social care workforce."

He added that the immediate reality was that the average hourly pay for care workers was below the rate paid in most supermarkets, and that the Government needs to provide an immediate social care funding boost, a comprehensive plan for sustainable staffing, and action on the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's commitment to "fix social care once and for all".

UNISON Assistant General Secretary Christina McAnea said reducing the salary threshold by £4,400 “won’t allow a single care worker to come to the UK”.

NHS Providers Chief Executive Chris Hopson said: “It is positive that the £30k salary threshold proposal has been pulled back in these recommendations, but we are disappointed that there are no proposals to ensure we can recruit the staff we need to ensure sustainable social care services."

Last reviewed 4 February 2020