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The government’s new points based immigration system will make recruiting care staff into Essex “really challenging if not impossible”.
Simon Harniess, director of care at Essex Care Association, said the government’s announcement to block low skilled migrants – many of whom work in the care sector – will lead to serious shortages.
According to Skills for Care an estimated 84 per cent of the workforce in Essex had a British nationality, seven per cent had an EU nationality and nine per cent had a non-EU nationality.
However, under plans announced today (Wednesday February 19) many of those workers classed as unskilled will no longer be eligible to work in the UK.
Mr Harniess said: “We are very concerned about the government’s proposed points system. It is already a struggle to recruit sufficient staff to work in health and social care both locally and nationally.
“Whilst it is encouraging that many EU nationals have applied for right to remain, we are still very short of care staff.
“Having tried hard to recruit care staff locally, some local providers have tried to recruit staff from abroad, but the proposals are going to make this really challenging if not impossible.
“The government has suggested that technology can help. Local care providers have certainly adopted technology to help with things like recording and planning, but there is no substitute for a human being and machines simply cannot do most of the jobs in care.
“The social care system is chronically underfunded and there are already not enough workers to support frail, vulnerable and elderly people at home.
“The changes will mean people being admitted to hospital sooner and staying longer, because there is no-one to support them at home. This just puts greater pressure on a very stretched NHS.
“We would urge the government to think again about admitting skilled but low-paid workers needed by the care sector.”
Essex County Council’s total net budget of £423 million for adult social care may have to increase significantly just to keep up with wages, irrespective of the costs of paying for an ageing population, says one care operator.
Frank Ladkin, owner of Essex-based Forest Homecare, which employs about 12 per cent of its staff from the EU, said that the changes will force the government and councils to increase the amount of money paid into the sector to guarantee enough staff can be recruited from a pool of UK nationals.
He said: “Sooner or later, and it’s going to be sooner now, the government or the county council is going to have recognise that if they want the hospital beds unblocked they need to put money into social care.”