The government should drop the salary threshold for immigrants by more than £4,000, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has said.
Skilled migrants from outside the EU currently need to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £30,000. The MAC has said that the cap should fall to £25,600 for all workers to help recruit teachers and skilled NHS staff.
However, nursing organisations argue that the cap will still stymie vital international recruitment into the health and care workforce.
‘The recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to maintain a restrictive immigration system appear to fall short of what is required to meet the workforce needs of the health and social care sectors, now and in the future,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
‘Whilst international recruitment shouldn’t be used as a replacement for domestic workforce supply, it’s clear that overseas recruitment of health and care staff will need to continue in the short to medium-term so that services can fill the growing number of vacant posts. We are disappointed to see that our concerns, shared by the wider sectors, in relation to the need for an appropriate immigration route for social care workers, care assistants and support workers appear to have been ignored.’
According to the MAC, the changes are also expected to reduce pressures on the NHS, schools and on social housing, though they will increase pressure on social care, raise the dependency ratio and have larger impacts on some sectors and areas than others.
‘This is a missed opportunity to urge the government to reshape the immigration system into one that recognises the public value that health and care occupations bring to the UK - which could be possible through an Australian-style points based system,’ added Dame Donna.
‘Instead, their recommendations appear to maintain the status quo; fixated on financial contribution and level of qualification alone. Whilst the MAC recognise the potential implications for the social care sector, they do not provide workable solutions to address the practical realities and difficulties of raising the salary levels across the sector in the UK, where there is no national influence or control. We have been clear that maintaining arbitrary salary thresholds will not enable the health and social care services to recruit and retain the number of health and care staff needed to meet the needs of the UK’s population.’