de Poel fears care sector workforce will suffer
de Poel fears care sector workforce will suffer as the Home Secretary
raises threshold for migrant workers
As if the challenges facing the care sector arent already enough, the Home Secretary has accepted 16 proposals from the Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) this month to tighten up the points-based immigration system.
While some see this as a positive move, going some way to preventing non-EU migrants from undercutting British job-seekers, de Poel, experts in the UK agency labour market, fear the care sector may suffer due to a spiralling skills shortage and an increasing reliance upon migrants to make up a large proportion of the workforce.
The number-one procurer of temporary agency labour in the UK, de Poel has already noticed an increasing reliance upon temporary agency workers among their care clients as it has become more and more difficult for even the largest organisations to recruit.
Indeed many of the agencies they work with, which include leading recruitment consultants Hays and Blue Arrow, are reporting hundreds of vacancies for qualified social care workers, arousing suspicion that a lack of sufficient suitable staff is already a huge problem for the sector despite rising unemployment levels.
The changes, which apply specifically to tier two of the points-based system, include measures that will make it more difficult for a migrant to qualify to work in the UK and will increase the amount of time that jobs must be advertised to British workers over migrants.
Chief Executive of de Poel, Matthew Sanders, said: We have certainly witnessed more care organisations employing our solutions, possibly due to an increased spend on temporary agency labour within the sector.
The problem is that not only are these care organisations facing one of the worst skills shortages in decades, but job applicants also seem reluctant to accept permanent positions, giving rise to a high number of vacancies.
He added: Our fear is that these new measures could put even more pressure on the sector to supplement its workforce with agency staff, which can be a dangerous and costly process if not properly managed.
According to Migrant care workers in ageing societies, migrants currently account for 19% of care workers and 35% of nurses employed in the care of older people in the UK.
More significantly, 28% of care workers and 45% of nurses recruited in 2007 were migrants, whilst Labour Force Survey (LFS) data shows the proportion of foreign born care workers has more than doubled over the last decade.
In London, specifically, 60% of all care workers are migrants.
After analysing the figures, an added concern for de Poel is that a potential staff shortage associated with the tightening up of the points-based system could, in turn, induce rising numbers of poor quality staff in the sector.
According to the temporary labour specialist, where agencies are used to fill vacancies, there is a tendency for recruitment consultants to cut corners when carrying out checks on their workers.
Evidently, this could have serious consequences for both care organisations and their patients.
Mr Sanders commented that such practices were commonplace in the recruitment industry due its fragmented nature and absence of a government regulator.
Speaking about de Poels swelling care client base, he said: Our ability to optimise the supply of agency workers and keep checks on the agencies that our clients work with may in fact also go some way to explaining why weve seen such an increase in care customers.
By introducing a managed panel of audited agencies, who all work within the same formal terms of business which include key performance indicators to maintain high standards, we can provide reassurance to our care clients.
We also make certain that legislation is incorporated into our solutions, which is critical for the care sector and particularly relevant at the moment with changes to the points-based system.
Kent Community Housing Trust is one of de Poels most recent care clients benefiting from de Poels intervention.
Debbie Pert, the Finance and Resource Director, said: Agency usage is a major concern for KCHT. It can have an effect on the quality of care if not carefully managed.
On making the recommendations, Chair of MAC, Professor David Metcalf said he thought that tier two had been working well, but that the labour market could be helped by requiring higher standards from skilled workers outside the EU.
He added: It is important that British workers are not displaced. We have therefore made a number of recommendations which will help to avoid undercutting and any disincentives to raise the skills of UK workers.