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28 Nov 2023

Delphine Strauss, Financial Times

Long hours and large debts: care workers stranded by UK’s migration policy

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Olly is one of hundreds of migrant care workers who have sought help over the past year from Unison, the largest UK union, after the job they had pinned their hopes on left them in acute difficulties.

This is the group of workers ministers have in their sights as they seek ways to cut record immigration. Home secretary James Cleverly, under pressure from the right wing of the Conservative party, is reviewing options to reduce work-related migration that include higher salary thresholds and limits on the number of dependants care workers can bring.

Immigration through all channels — study, work-related and humanitarian — has surged since the pandemic, partly reflecting international trends that affect many advanced economies, and partly because of the design of the UK’s post-Brexit visa system.

Other inflows are now slowing, but visa applications for care workers are still rocketing; more than 100,000 were granted in the year to September, according to official data, almost half the total of all skilled worker visas.

Unions and employers, however, argue that a clampdown on migrants and their families will achieve nothing and that ministers need to boost funding so that the care sector can pay enough to recruit and retain UK workers...

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee recommended opening up entry-level care jobs to migrants in 2022 only reluctantly. It worried that workers in effect tied to their employer by the terms of their visa would be vulnerable to this type of exploitation...