Just like fiscal or monetary policy, migration policy is an area of government decision-making that has a very wide impact across a large number of distinct policy areas.

Nowhere is this interaction clearer than in relation to adult social care.

With EU free movement of people ending in the UK, the complexity of the interaction between migration policy and adult social care has come into sharp focus.

This brings an immediacy in dealing with some of the sector’s long standing challenges including issues around increased demand, funding restraints and workforce challenges such as attraction and retention.

The UK government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (the MAC) to undertake a review of adult social care and the impact the ending of freedom of movement has had on the sector.

The MAC has specifically been tasked with investigating the impact on:

  • the adult social care workforce (such as skills shortages) covering the range of caring roles in adult social care including care workers, registered nurses and managerial roles
  • visa options for social care workers
  • long term consequences for workforce recruitment, training and employee terms and conditions
  • any other relevant matters the independent chair deems appropriate which are relevant to the above objectives

This will be an extremely important exercise for the MAC who have traditionally tended to operate sector-based reviews by ingathering evidence from those engaged with them.

Following that trend, they have issued a call for evidence and are actively seeking views and evidence from anyone with relevant knowledge, expertise or experience.

The format of the consultation exercise is primarily an online questionnaire, though there is also scope to upload additional documents and evidence.

There are three distinct questionnaires for different respondent groups: employers, representative organisations and individuals responding in a personal capacity.

The questionnaires include questions such as:

  • Are there any ways in which the location(s) of those you represent impact on staffing and recruitment? (For example, travel times, or local population demographics).
  • What has been the impact of COVID-19 on staffing levels and your recruitment for the organisations you represent?
  • [With the new points based immigration system], what impact, if any, do you think this, and the wider implications of the EU Exit referendum will have on: (a) the employment of European workers in social care? (b) the intentions of existing European staff to remain in post? (c) the ability of the organisations you represent to fill vacancies?
  • Currently, when the organisations you represent have vacancies they can’t fill, what is the impact on service delivery, and how do they adjust to compensate for this?
  • Over the medium term (i.e. in around five years’ time), what, if any, differences would you expect to see in your sector as a result of the end of free movement?

The key thrust of the review will be in relation to migration policy as it affects the sector. There is scope to be creative on that front utilising the breadth of the existing UK immigration system and making useful suggestions for change.

Ideas on that front could include changes to the Health & Care Worker visa, utilising the Shortage Occupation List or considering a more regionalised focus (namely regionalised within the devolved nations and regions to tackle rural issues).

There is also the possibility of looking at expanding the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme), sector based schemes for adult social care and the possibility of using Tier 5 (Government Exchange Schemes).

As with all submissions of evidence to the MAC, responses should ideally be evidence-based and where possible should provide data and/or examples to support the submission.

The MAC has had a change of leadership in recent years and the approach to reviews such as this is very open-minded.

This is an important opportunity for those in the adult social care sector to engage in a direct manner, offering creative solutions to challenges that have arisen because of Brexit or simply ensuring the challenges the sector faces are registered with policymakers.

This consultation closes on 29 October 2021 with the MAC due to report their findings in April 2022.

The impact of the ending of freedom of movement on the adult social care sector: call for evidence - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

If you are interested in discussing this further, then please contact specialist immigration Partner Jamie Kerr or Chris Mackay from our Healthcare team.