'Devastating' visa rules banning overseas care workers' families now in force

New measures to cut net migration have been described as 'cruel' and 'catastrophic' for the care sector.

New measures to slash net migration are being described by “cruel” and “catastrophic” by leaders in Scotland’s care sector.

Overseas care workers will be banned from bringing family members with them on their visa under the rules which came into force on Monday.

Children and dependants were previously allowed entry into the UK under the Health and Care Worker visa.

The UK Government argues it will stop abuse of the system, but with around 15% of the workforce coming from abroad, its been branded a “hostile, xenophobic” policy that will only harm a sector already in crisis.

Since arriving in Fife from the Philippines four years ago, the Gabales family have fallen in love with Scotland.

Fred came over first, getting a job as a care home nurse in Methil, Fife – his wife and son joined him shortly after.

But from Monday, that will no longer be possible as new immigration rules come into force – banning all overseas care workers from bringing dependants with them on their visa.

He said: “I applied because of the salary, better opportunities and life for my family.

“While we respect the decision the government makes, I feel quite disappointed.

“Nurses coming here will think twice to come over here because of that. If you’re a family-oriented man, family unity will be your priority.

“I think fewer people will apply, which is problematic nowadays.

“If you have family, you have to consider other options like Canada, Australia or US. There are better opportunities for the whole family.”

Andrea now works at the same care home as Fred, but warns the changes will badly impact a sector struggling for staff.

She said: “It’s really sad to hear. I was in a situation where my husband worked far away from me and my son. The only communication we had was by phone and video call.

“Coming home from work after such long hours feels different knowing your family is there waiting for you.

“When you go to work, you have a feeling of being excited to work because you’re inspired.

“It would be so hard for me as a mum. I want to be present in every special occasion. I don’t think I could do it.

Fred and Andrea Gabales work at a care home in Methil, Fife

She added: “I think there will be fewer workers coming to the UK. There will be fewer people filling in the gaps in the care sector.”

The changes are part of the UK Government’s plans to slash net migration.

As of September last year, 101,000 Health and Care Worker Visas were granted, with around 120,000 Dependant Visas going to family members.

Chief executive of Scottish Care Donald MacAskill said between 10-15% of Scotland’s care sector come from international communities.

He said: “It could have a potentially devastating impact. We’ve struggled to recruit and retain our care workforce. In order to do that we’ve been supported by migration into country.

“We have skilled and talented people coming to Scotland and making this place their home.

“This is a very hostile approach based on a hostile model of migration.

“What it says is, ‘we want you to come and care for our children and older adults, but we don’t want you to have own life or treat you with dignity and respect.’ It’s a horrid example of xenophobic hostile immigration.

“We dare not and we cannot lose these women and men.”

Care chief Donald MacAskill branded new rules 'xenophobic and hostile'

Those specialising in international recruitment say although they don’t agree with the changes, it wont stem the flow of willing workers.

Care International co-founder Melvin Byres said: “The reality is there are plenty of others who will come over. The sector will still find the talent it needs.

“There are not enough nurses in the western world but every place has their pros and cons. This makes Britain slightly less attractive but it doesn’t mean thousands are going to look elsewhere.

“Clients have experienced huge delays with the Home Office’s processing of sponsorship.

“We believe the Home Office are waiting for the new rules to come into play at which point we think the bottleneck will be removed.”

“The reality is the care sector is still desperate for foreign workers. They are crucial.”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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