Scotland’s finance secretary has urged the Home Office to include social care staff on a list of under-filled jobs in its new immigration system.
A recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that senior social care workers should be added to the shortage occupation list (SOL) but Kate Forbes said that “does not go far enough”.
The SOLs outline a number of jobs where shortages have been identified and it will be easier for employers to look overseas to fill posts, under the new points-based immigration rules to come into force after the end of the Brexit transition period.
A salary threshold of £25,600 will be enforced on workers arriving from overseas under the new rules, but if social care staff were added to the list that would drop to £20,480.
In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, Forbes has pushed for care staff to be placed on the list, saying the recommendation of the MAC “does not go far enough”.
Forbes added that the push from the Scottish Government was not due to a “general” shortage of staff but to mitigate negative effects on health as a result of leaving the EU at the beginning of next year, particularly on the response to the pandemic.
She said: “The economic and public health impacts arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the need for further restrictions in response to rising infections, are placing a great deal of stress upon the health and social care sector.
“I trust that you agree that as winter approaches, we need to anticipate that this pressure will rise even further, and that therefore we should be doing all we reasonably can to reduce that pressure to ensure appropriate standards of care are given to the most vulnerable.”
Forbes also called for the Scottish Government to be more involved in setting the SOLs, particularly the list that only applies north of the border.
She said: “We remain of the clear view that if the shortage occupation lists are to continue to play a meaningful role in the future immigration system then the Scottish Government should have the ability to influence and determine what is on the Scotland Shortage Occupation List.”
In January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon proposed a separate visa system for Scotland, claiming a UK-wide immigration system has not worked in Scotland’s favour “for some time now”.
The proposals were rejected by the UK Government within hours and described as “fanciful and deranged” by the Prime Minister.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are delivering a firmer, fairer, points-based immigration system from January 2021, based on what people have to offer, rather than where their passport is issued.
“We’re supporting the social care sector in a number of ways, including more funding and a national recruitment scheme, but we want employers to focus on investing in our domestic workforce.”