In 2021, the UK government added “senior care workers”, and in 2022 “care workers”, to its shortage occupation list in reaction to pandemic and post-Brexit shortages. The result: a boom in applications for health and care visas which now make up two in five of all skilled worker visas. In the year to June 2023, 77,700 long-term work visas were granted to care workers, up from 12,300 in the year ending June 2022. Health and care visas made up 64 per cent (121,000) of all applicants via the “Skilled Worker Route” with most applicants coming from Zimbabwe, Nigeria and India. Last month the New Conservatives, an anti-immigrant wing of the Tory party, called for the scheme to be slashed to cut migration and increase wages for UK-born workers. Leaders in the care sector say doing so would create a world of pain for a sector that currently has more than 150,000 vacancies. In addition to health risks related to understaffing at care homes, there is evidence the sector has become ripe for exploitation of the migrant workforce.
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