Foreign carers not eligible for special health care visa under post-Brexit immigration rules

Video report ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks

Foreign people working in social care will not be able to apply for a special health and care visa under the UK’s new points-based immigration system which will come into force in the new year.

New post-Brexit rules outlined by the home secretary will allow people to apply to work in Britain based on the number of points they have built up, but special visas will be introduced for workers considered essential to the UK but who do not have sufficient points to immigrate.

Points are awarded to potential immigrants according to varying criteria including work and language skills.

For foreign people wanting to work in the NHS but who do not have enough points, a new-fast track health and care visa will be introduced.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it is designed to "make it easier and quicker for talented global health professionals to work in our brilliant NHS and in eligible occupations in the social care sector".

For those who successfully apply, the visa fee will be reduced and frontline workers will be exempt from the requirement to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

But people are angry that social carers are not included on the list of people able to apply.

Two months ago Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a "badge for care workers", which he said may help them access similar perks to NHS staff.

Matt Hancock announced the care badge so carers could be entitled to some of the same perks awarded to the NHS. Credit: PA

He said: "I know that many businesses will want to offer the same recognition and benefits as they do wonderfully to the NHS.”

Despite minsters outlining their desire for social care workers to be treated the same as NHS staff, the PM's spokesman confirmed the former will not able to take advantage of the new visa.

He said social carers are not eligible because the government wants "employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country".

“On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5 billion of funding for social care in 2021/22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign.”

Labour's shadow home secretary questioned what the government had learned from the coronavirus crisis by deciding social carers are low skilled.

"What does this Government have against care workers?" Nick Thomas-Symonds asked.

"The latest papers on the proposed immigration system confirm that the Tories do not consider carers as skilled workers. Have they learned nothing from this crisis? We will be seeking urgent clarification on this."

In the Commons he said: “After the prime minister accused care workers of not following the guidance on Covid-19 and now this, can the Home Secretary please answer a simple question: What does the Government have against care workers?”

Home Office minister Kevin Foster replied: “We have every support for our care workers and senior care workers will qualify under the new points-based system."

He added: “We are engaging regularly with the care sector, we’re listening to what they said, but our priority is that these jobs should be valued, rewarded and trained for, not immigration be an alternative to that.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner described the move as "absolutely outrageous".

Existing European Union workers in the care sector could apply to stay in the UK through the settlement scheme “and a very large number have done so”, Mr Johnson's spokesman said.

“Those people will remain in the UK providing really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable.”

People who want to live and work in the UK will need to gain 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa.

Points will be awarded for key requirements like being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer from an approved employer, and meeting a minimum salary threshold.

A health and care visa will provide a visa route for key health professionals to work in the UK, while a graduate route will allow international students to stay in the UK for at least two years after completing their studies, the Government also announced.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster said the government hopes to bring in the new health and care visa “significantly before” January 1 next year.

He told the Commons: “The details published this morning relate to the new system beyond January 1 (2021), however to be clear, we will refund those who’ve paid it since March 31, not just since the time when the Prime Minister made the announcement.

“And we expect to bring in the new health and care visa significantly before January 1 and we’re planning actually before October 1 to have it in place and that means people will therefore applying for that will not have to pay the surcharge.”

Boris Johnson said the UK will have a “humane and sensible” immigration system despite “taking back control” after Brexit.

Asked if he thinks there will be enough people coming in to work in the social care system, the Prime Minister told reporters: “I do,” adding: “Although of course we are going to be taking back control and we are controlling our immigration system we’re not going to be simply slamming the gates and stopping anybody anywhere coming into this country.

“Where people can contribute to this country, where people want to make their lives and do great things for this country, of course we’re going to have a humane and sensible system.”