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The new Points Based Immigration System – The impact on the social care system

Mandy Higgins, Partner, explains more about the new PBS and its impact on the social care system

From 1 January 2021, the new Points Based System (PBS) will apply to all job applicants outside the UK resident labour market (including EU workers) seeking employment in the UK in occupations requiring ‘skilled workers’. For the first time, this includes sponsorship of ‘medium skilled’ jobs.

Job applicants must demonstrate that they meet the specific requirements for which they will score points. The following are mandatory:

  • Job offer from a Home Office licenced sponsor;
  • Required skill level – RFQ 3 or above (A level and equivalent);
  • English spoken to the required standard.

There are new minimum salary requirements: the higher of £25,600 or the specific salary requirement for the occupation.

Job applicants can ‘trade’ certain characteristics, such as their qualifications, in substitution for a lower salary. If the salary offered is below the minimum threshold a job applicant may still be eligible if the job is in a shortage occupation or they have a PhD relevant to the job.

The impact on the social care system

Local authority leaders and healthcare experts have warned that the PBS will be detrimental to an already struggling social care system.

EU workers currently employed in social care can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK. However, from January 2021, those looking to move to the UK from the EU are unlikely to meet the new requirements.

In September 2020, The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that senior care workers should be recognised as a shortage occupation. The MAC’s view was that, although it would be better for wage funding to be increased to address a lack of staff to fill those roles, the end of free movement for EU nationals would place significant pressure on the social care sector if this did not happen soon.

Applicants with a job offer at minimum skill level of RQF3 (equivalent to A-level) who speak English to an acceptable standard will earn 50 points. The skill level alone excludes care workers, but not senior care workers.

To qualify for entry, an applicant must earn a further 20 points through a minimum salary of £25,600 a year or the going rate for the role, if higher. However, if the job is in a shortage occupation they only need to earn £20,480.

This is just above the median salary for senior care workers, therefore if the Government had accepted the MAC’s advice to add the role to the shortage list, migrant staff would have been eligible to apply for a significant number of those roles.

The Government has said it will not, at this point, accept the MAC’s recommendation to place senior care workers on the shortage occupation list. The reason is that it wishes to assess how the labour market develops following the pandemic, and the response to the new PBS being introduced.  A more likely explanation is that there has been insufficient time to properly consider and implement the MAC recommendations. It is predicted that there will be calls for the shortage occupation list to be revised quickly to limit the negative impact on the social care system.

If you need advice, please contact our experienced business immigration solicitors. We are here to help you.

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