Adding care work to the shortage occupation list will enable care providers to recruit more staff from overseas
"These measures, together with the series of support packages announced since September, will help us ensure short term sustainability and success for our long-term vision to build social care back better.” Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary
The government is to add social care workers to the shortage occupation list in order to address some of the workforce shortfalls created by the pandemic.
The list consists of all the job roles that the government considers to be in short supply in the UK labour market. Relaxed visa rules apply to the jobs on the list, which means that classing care work as a shortage occupation will make it easier for employers to recruit care workers from overseas. Thousands of additional care workers, including care assistants and home care workers, could join the UK workforce as a result.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, the social care workforce has been under immense pressure. Existing shortages have been exacerbated by the introduction of compulsory vaccination for care home staff, which has seen thousands of workers leave the sector.
In order to qualify for the health and care visa, overseas workers will have to receive a minimum annual salary of £20,480. Applicants and their dependants will benefit, the government said, from “fast-track processing, dedicated resources in processing applications and reduced visa fees”.
The changes to the list apply only for a 12-month period, however. At the end of that period, the usual visa rules will apply.
Care providers who do not already hold a sponsor licence in the skilled worker route will be able to register for one ahead of implementation. The government will hold a series of engagement activities this month and next to introduce them to the system and help them find out how to act as a visa sponsor. It also said that care workers recruited to the UK will be able to bring their partners and children, and that the visa would offer a “pathway to settlement” if they remain employed in the sector and want to stay in the UK.
Sajid Javid, the health and social care secretary, said it was “vital we continue to do all we can to protect the social care sector during the pandemic and beyond.” He added: “These measures, together with the series of support packages announced since September, will help us ensure short term sustainability and success for our long-term vision to build social care back better.”
The decision to add care staff to the shortage occupation list follows an earlier investment of £465.2m to support recruitment and retention of social care staff through the winter period, as well as the £500m for workforce training, qualifications and wellbeing announced as part of the health and social care levy.
The care minister Gillian Keegan said that the change would “support getting more people into care as we implement our long-term strategy for a fair and sustainable care sector that meets the needs of everyone.”