The Independent Care Group has welcomed the opportunity to recruit staff from overseas again but warned that bureaucracy is slowing down the process.
From today care workers are included on the Shortage Occupation List, opening the door for providers to recruit from outside the UK again.
But as they welcomed the option, the ICG warned that there were delays in the system.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Social care is facing its biggest staffing crisis in living memory and anything that alleviates that is welcome indeed.
“But providers are now experiencing lengthy delays in getting the licences needed to recruit staff, which is the last thing we need.
“We need these staff to provide care today and tomorrow, not sometime in the future when the bureaucracy is sorted out. The Government needs to streamline this process, or we will be no better off.
“This obstacle should never have been put in our way in the first place. But then once a decision had been taken to remove it, we should not have had to wait this long – it was announced on Christmas Eve after all.
“Now we are finding that there are further delays. It is simply not acceptable for a sector that is on its knees already. The people who need care and those providing it deserve better than this.”
The social care sector is going through its toughest-ever staffing crisis.
Pre-Covid-19 there were at least 120,000 vacancies in the sector and it is estimated that the ‘no jab, no job’ Covid-19 vaccination policy – introduced in November for care and nursing homes – added at least 20,000 to that figure. The Government itself says that figure could be nearer 40,000.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) estimated that one in ten care home staff positions in England were unfilled at the end of 2021, as the vacancy rate hit 11.5%. Care providers are still losing staff to Covid-19 and isolation.
The sector lost staff due to the rules on employing overseas staff post-Brexit. But after much campaigning from bodies like the ICG, the Government announced on Christmas Eve that social care staff would be included on the Shortage Occupation List, opening the door for providers to recruit from outside the UK again.
To bring staff in from overseas, care providers need to apply for a sponsor licence but they are experiencing lengthy delays to these applications being processed.