The Migration Advisory
Committee (MAC) has concluded its year-long investigation into the current and
likely future patterns of EEA migration and the impacts of that migration. The
intention of the final MAC
report is to provide an evidence base for the design of a new migration
system. The timing of the MAC report in the final six months build-up to Brexit
ensured the recommendations have hit the headlines. In a week fuelled with
intense political and media focus on the relationship between the UK and the
rest of the European Union, the importance of establishing an understanding of
the impact of migration has never felt so pertinent.
The opportunity for the report
to do some myth busting was not ignored, and amongst the key statements, the
- Taking all the new evidence into account we found that
migrants have no or little impact on the overall employment and
unemployment outcomes of the UK born workforce’.
- On innovation, the available evidence suggests that
high-skilled immigrants make a positive contribution to the levels of
innovation in the receiving country.
- EEA migrants contribute much more to the health service
and the provision of social care in financial resources and through work
than they consume in services.
- There is no evidence that migration has reduced the
quality of healthcare.
The investigation had focussed
in detail on the impact of EEA migration on public service. Social care will
welcome the recommendation the cap on higher skilled migrants is lifted and the
extension of the Tier 2 scheme to workers in medium skilled roles. This will
allow the recruitment of nurses and other professionals to the sector within
this category from both within the EEA and the wider world.
However, there was to be no
softening of the MAC approach to the recruitment of what it deems ‘low skilled
workforce’. Social care comes under particular focus in relation to its
reliance on a migrant workforce, but the MAC is quite specific in its analysis
of the position of the social care workforce.
Whilst acknowledging “We are seriously concerned about social care
but this sector needs a policy wider than just migration policy to fix its many
problems….. the impacts of migration often depend on other government policies
and should not be seen in isolation from the wider context.”
Just in case government was in
any doubt about which policy it was referring to, the report goes onto state: “Its (social cares) basic underlying problem
is that poor terms and conditions paid to workers in this sector, in turn
caused by the difficulty in finding a sustainable funding model.”
More evidence should we need
it that the ongoing stasis around announcing proposals, (never mind solutions),
for social care funding continue to damage not only the national, but
international reputation of working within the sector.
I am often reminded of the
powerful statement of Sharon Allen, CEO Skills for Care, when speaking earlier this year about the social
care workforce at the Public Accounts Committee. There she stated “I think it is a source of national shame
that we talk about this sector as a minimum wage workforce”.
the MAC is telling us, this shame stretches beyond our much scrutinised
Whilst the MAC waves the
potential for one targeted scheme for low skilled workers, in relation to
seasonal agricultural workforce, it suggests if there is to be low skilled work
route, it should not be sector specific, but should instead look at ‘youth
mobility’. The challenge of recruiting any candidates brought through this
route into our sector is not underestimated by the MAC, who state even if there
was a special immigration scheme for social care, they do not think it is
attractive enough, in its current state, to retain the migrants it requires. It
raises concerns that migrants hired under such a scheme might take the first
opportunity available to change sector.
Growing the social care
workforce from within the UK is also tackled head on, with the MAC once again
asserting the advent of a sustainable funding model paying competitive wages to
UK residents would, it believes, address many of the recruitment and retention
issues affecting the sector. It dismisses claims to treat the public sector
different, claiming rather than seek special dispensation to deal with public
workers where the value of the work is not sufficiently financially recognised,
“it would be better to pay public sector
workers salaries that reflect the value of the work”.
Well – so there you have it.
The MAC shines a laser beam on some of the key challenges everyone in social
care knows exists. Another powerful voice calling the government to account
over the consequence of being caught
napping as the country got older, and the care sector and its workforce got
stretched to the extreme.
Whilst we remain part of the
Europe, and can continue to attract a workforce to meet those emerging gaps,
then it has been possible to stumble on. However, what the MAC report, and
wider commentary (Polly
Finance and Nursing
Times) makes clear is, if there is to be no special recognition of the
needs of social care, and every frontline care worker from either within the
EEA or outside, becomes subject to this recommended migration system, then the
social care workforce will be hardest hit.
We are told the Secretary of
State for Health and Social Care is in ‘listening’ mode around this key area of
workforce. There are opportunities for front line staff to get their views
heard, and we would strongly encourage you to
share this opportunity with staff.
However, that listening needs
to extend to the many voices that have gone before – the vast bodies of research
that Jeremy Hunt, Caroline Dinenage and others have referenced in their
speeches and presentations about the critical importance of sustainable
funding, and a sustainable skilled and valued workforce.
On top of all that has gone before - we have the new report from Skills for Care on the state of the sector- reminding us of the increasing challenges.
On top of this, the Health and
Social Care Select Committee is seeking views on the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit
on social care. The full details of the inquiry can be found here
and this important report from the MAC will provide more heavy weight evidence
on the essential requirements of a well-supported and resourced workforce – now
and in the future – deal or no deal.