A week ago, the UK Government announced plans for a new points-based immigration system restricting entry to the UK for ‘unskilled’ workers and those earning less than £25,600 per annum. With most Social Care Workers earning between £18,000 and £20,000 per year the social care sector will be one of the hardest hit, with many people across the UK who rely on daily support bearing the brunt of these decisions.
Today, over a quarter of Thistle’s personal assistants are from the European Economic Area outside the UK.
Every day, Thistle’s highly-skilled and compassionate employees provide vital support for disabled people and those living with long-term health conditions. In these roles, maturity of outlook, empathy and a can-do attitude outweigh academic qualifications. Our practitioners support people to live lives of their own choosing: pursuing passions and interests and participating in social, family and professional activities.
The UK Government’s Immigration proposals disregard the important, life-enhancing and highly-skilled work that our staff deliver.
Here’s what one of our employees, and a parent of someone we support, say about the UK Government’s immigration policy.
Ines works as part of a team supporting Rachel, a young disabled woman. Of the five practitioners working in Rachel’s team, four are from mainland Europe. Originally from Spain, Ines has lived in the UK for six years and worked with Rachel for four.
“I love my job working with Rachel. She’s a lovely person and we share so much of her life with her. Being able to support her and see her happy and enjoying herself is so important. My team is really motivated and skilled, we’ve all done a lot of training and have confidence in each other. The team love Rachel very much and want to deliver the best support possible.
“I think the policy is terrible! There is full employment [in our area] and lots of organisations like Thistle struggle to find workers to support people. It could be very dangerous for vulnerable people like Rachel if the new immigration policy leads to a position where there are not enough workers.”
A Father's Perspective
Rachel’s father shares his thoughts.
“In fourteen years of support, most practitioners supporting Rachel have been dedicated, caring, hard-working and compassionate. Over the years, Rachel’s team of five has comprised at least 40% of people who moved to the UK from elsewhere in the EU.
“In Rachel’s case, people have to very quickly acquire life-enabling skills to support her, with little verbal input from Rachel herself. Perhaps because of their own lived experience, and the adaptability required in moving to a new country, the people who have supported Rachel have quickly developed the capability to support a vulnerable adult. I admire these practitioners greatly and I am so sorry that this despicable new immigration policy set out by the UK Government appears not to value these people as I do.”
“Being the parent of a severely disabled adult is a lifelong responsibility. Thistle assists greatly with the discharge of this responsibility. However, I fear that this policy, if implemented, will damage Thistle’s ability to compete for the best people who aspire to make a career in social care from a rapidly diminishing pool. This is not a prospect I welcome now, well into my seventh decade, looking for some peace and certainty for my family.”
Anyone who, like Rachel, require support in their daily lives should be supported by the best people for the role. This isn’t determined by place of birth, academic qualifications or annual salary.
The Home Secretary’s new points-based immigration system ‘which will open up the UK to the brightest and the best from around the world’ is likely to close-down the UK to many of the best Social Care Workers and could leave many people in our country without the highly skilled support they need. Given the recruitment crisis that the sector already faces, this decision seems particularly short-sighted.
We need and want to continue to welcome people to the Social Care workforce who, regardless of their country of origin, have skill, compassion, empathy, and the desire to provide exceptional support for people like Rachel.
For these reasons I would urge the Home Secretary to:
- reconsider her stance on what makes a ‘skilled’ worker and;
- consider how her immigration policy can be amended to recognise the value of workers from other countries, attracting more people from within the EEA to join our much-needed social care workforce.
This would also send an important positive message about how the UK Government values the contribution made by social care workers and the people they support.
In the meantime Thistle Foundation alongside our colleagues across the sector will continue working to mitigate the impact of the new immigration policy so that we can continue to recruit and retain the best people, and provide the best support possible.