Care staff join list of occupations relaxing immigration rules amid labour shortages

Credit: PA

Care workers have been added to the government's shortage occupation list, in an another sign of the deepening labour crisis straining care operators across the country.

The health department made the decision to place the sector on the list, designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.

It means that social care providers will be able to recruit overseas workers to fill vacancies under relaxed immigration rules that came into force on Tuesday.

Though the Home Office says most license applications are decided within eight weeks, many in the care sector (which faces more than 100,000 vacancies) have warned that the application process of hiring overseas workers is layered with bureaucracy, making it expensive and time consuming.

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said: "We need these staff to provide care today and tomorrow, not some time in the future when the bureaucracy is sorted out. The government needs to streamline this process, or we will be no better off."

Many providers are handing back some, or all, of their care to local authorities because they can no longer fulfil their contracts, with thousands of vulnerable people going without the support they need due to workforce gaps.

Social care providers are losing workers to better paid jobs in retail and hospitality as exhausted staff look for alternatives.

It is one of many sectors struggling to recruit staff as many overseas workers left during the pandemic, with new post-Brexit immigration rules making replacing those who left more complex.

What other sectors are on the shortage occupation list and why are they having recruitment issues?

  • Chemical scientists in the nuclear industry in Scotland. Archaeologists, biological scientists, biochemists and many types of physical scientists - including those who work in the oil and gas industry - across the UK.

  • Electrical, electronics, design and development and production and process engineers. Quality control and planning engineers are also facing labour shortages, along with those in the welding trades.

A specialist engineer at a workshop in Nottingham. Credit: PA
  • IT business analysts, systems designers, programmers and software development professionals also face staff shortages. Web design and development professionals, along with cyber security specialists, are also on the list.

  • There are a shortage of vets across the UK.

Veterinary practices have reported struggling with the recruitment and retention crisis, as pandemic pressures added to existing woes around stress, pay and well-being.

In July and August 2021, some 80% of veterinary professionals said they had seen an increase in their caseload due to a rise in animal ownership, according to a survey carried out by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

A third said this took its toll, as they felt a conflict between their wellbeing and their professional roles.

  • Actuaries, economists and statisticians.

  • Architects and graphic designers.

  • Artists, skilled classical ballet dancers, skilled contemporary dancers, arts officers, producers and directors are on the shortages list.

  • Musicians.

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As live performance opportunities were severely restricted due to Covid restrictions, many professional musicians considered giving up their careers due to financial difficulties.

A survey released by the Musician's Union in the autumn of 2020 found that 34% of its 2,000 members were "considering abandoning the industry completely”.

Brexit has also worsened the situation as British artists face having to pay increased fees, as musicians are no longer guaranteed visa-free travel in the bloc.

The following jobs are on the shortage occupations list specifically for the healthcare and education sectors:

  • Pharmacists, medical radiographers and physiotherapists.

  • Psychologists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.

  • Paramedics.

  • Social workers.

  • Secondary school teachers in maths, physics, science, computer science and modern foreign languages.

Last year, new figures showed that recruitment in some subjects at secondary level in England had dropped significantly below the 2021 target, with only just over a fifth of the physics teachers required being taken on.

Department for Education data showed there were 37,069 new entrants to initial teacher training last year (2021-22) compared with 40,377 the previous year (2020-21) – a fall of 8%.

“Historical trends tell us that when the economic picture of a country improves, fewer graduates are likely to go into teaching, but the speed of the national recovery and improvement of the wider UK labour market have meant that this drop-off in teacher recruitment numbers has occurred much more suddenly than expected," James Zuccollo, of the Education Policy Institute think tank, said at the time. “While there have been some improvements, recruitment problems remain most severe in shortage subjects like physics, chemistry, maths, and modern languages."