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EU Withdrawal Bill and the impact on carers

SIA’s Founder and President, Baroness Masham of Ilton, has spoken passionately this week about the serious implications of a future shortage of skilled carers during the Second Reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords. 

The EU Withdrawal Bill brings forward the Governments proposals for a points-based immigration system, as promised during the Brexit referendum and the 2019 General Election. Successful passing of the Bill will then pave the way for the introduction of the new immigration system from 1 January 2021.

This legislation will end the free movement of EU citizens, with the stated aim of the new immigration system being that its based around skills, with priority being given to those with the highest skills who can make the greatest contribution to the UK economy. However, the new system has a salary threshold of £25,600 per annum for people coming to work in the UK, an amount that many health and care workers earn well below.

Like many charities, SIA is frustrated and angry that the proposed immigration system equates lower pay with low skills and therefore low value. This is simply not the case. As many SCI people will be able to confirm, carers are critically important to leading a fulfilled life, and it’s essential that SCI people can continue to be supported by well trained, highly skilled and dedicated carers, irrespective of their country of birth or indeed their annual salary.

After all, these are the workers that in so many ways have kept our health and social care system going during the Coronavirus pandemic, making sacrifices and risking their own health to provide essential care and support. Baroness Masham’s speech in the House of Lords was as follows:

My Lords, I am president of the Spinal Injuries Association and we are being contacted by an increasing number of members, who include some of the most vulnerable people in society today, desperately worried about the future shortage of skilled carers as a result of the planned immigration system. A very real staffing crisis is looming, with serious implications for the health and safety of a significant number of these vulnerable people.

Carers are not used just in hospitals and care homes. Many disabled people live in their own homes and have live-in carers or carers who visit them every day. These carers include many overseas nationals, and they are absolutely essential in managing disabled people’s health needs and enabling them to lead active, productive and fulfilled lives. They are key workers. Carers are a vital and integral part of the healthcare system.

Low paid does not mean low skilled. The vast majority of social care roles do not meet the planned immigration system’s salary threshold of £25,600. Restricting the numbers of overseas nationals who can work in this sector will put lives at risk, especially as we have an ageing population. We need people with a work ethos who want to help and look after people and enjoy and take satisfaction in doing this.

There is a danger that people who cannot get work of their choice are pushed into doing care work, with such horrifying results as happened at Whorlton Hall near Barnard Castle, Thors Park in Essex and Winterbourne View near Bristol, where patients were abused and bullied. This cruelty was exposed by “Panorama”. We must surely try to prevent this sort of thing happening again. I hope the Government will listen before it is too late.


If you want to discuss any concerns you may have about the future availability of skilled carers, and/or want to add your voice to those calling for carers to be classed as ‘key workers’ to help avoid a workforce crisis in health and social care, please contact SIA’s Campaigns Manager, Dave Bracher on [email protected]