An Update to Migration changes and Funding Impacting the Social Care Sector
The full impact of the migrant policy changes on the social care sector has yet to be felt but what do we know so far?
Recap of migration policy changes
A headline announcement last year was that the Government will be implementing changes in 2024 to the minimum salary requirements for a Skilled Worker visa to increase to £38,700 from £26,200 in a staged process, however, migrants coming to work under the health and care worker route will be exempt from this policy.
The graduate visa route will also be reviewed which may also impact the social care sector.
In England only care home businesses regulated by the CQC will be able to sponsor care workers, and care workers will not be able to bring their dependants from overseas.
The changes will happen in the Spring of 2024 except for the Graduate visa review with changes to the ‘shortage occupation list’ not happening before ‘April 2024.’ Source ‘House of Commons Library.’
How will the changes affect people from overseas already in the UK?
The Government has clarified that care workers already in the UK will be able to remain as a family unit when the time arrives to renew their visas or change sponsors. Where care workers have commenced their route before the migration policy changes, they will also be able to bring their dependents on the sponsored visa. Source ‘Homecare Insight.’
Despite the above clarification the concern remains that the changes have already started to impact recruitment of care workers from overseas, and employers who have commenced the sponsorship journey will probably want to complete the application process before the onset of the migration policy changes.
Local Authority Funding for the Social Care Sector
Several local authorities across the UK have already put on notice that their books may not balance without further budget cut backs which in turn may increase the challenges for paying a contribution to the fair cost of care, with those that can afford their care covering the fee gap.
When buying a care home as a new or existing care home owner, lenders pay particular attention to the debt serviceability and thus the last 6 to 12 months care home occupancy lists with the ratio of local authority to private fee payers in addition to the average weekly fee level, thus the ratio of local authority funding versus the private fee payer will be analysed as part of a lending application. Source Chandler & Co.
Care home fee levels can vary across the UK, subject to various mitigating factors such as type of service, care home location and locality affluence.
The onset of the increase in the National Living Wage in April 2024 is also starting to impact labour competitiveness with some care home providers planning to increase hourly wage rates early to ensure adequate staffing levels. Rhidian Hughes Chief Executive of VODG has previously commented that “the increases in the national living wage are welcome but currently unfunded and coupled with much higher operating costs brought on by inflationary and other pressures.”
Recruitment remains a challenge for the care sector, especially in a competitive employment market, however, the social care sector continues to remain resilient with care associations across the UK seeking to provide solutions to support care home providers, with Care England continuing to lobby the Government.
The social care sector is here to stay for the long term thus solutions to the staffing challenges will continue to evolve with the strength of the sector being those that work within it alongside the continuous improvement of digital technologies. With increasing momentum across the social care sector, working in the sector needs to grow at a faster pace as a professional career of choice with longevity.
In conclusion look at your current care home staffing strategy and how to retain your impacted staff on the Health and Care Worker Visas. The legal panel on Buyacarehome and Ownacarehome can support your care home provision to review your sponsor licence compliance.