New immigration rules could worsen staff shortages in the social care sector, the Scottish Government has warned.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has written to the UK Government seeking an urgent meeting over the effect new rules on movement will have on health and social care services.
In her letter to immigration minister Kevin Foster, she said she is concerned about the new immigration plan and the end of EU free movement.
She warned of a shortage of health and social staff, particularly in rural areas that have “high concentrations of EU citizens in social care roles”.
She called on the UK Government to extend the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and add all social care roles to the Shortage Occupation List.
“Stakeholders across all key sectors in Scotland have made clear that they are struggling to cope with the end of freedom of movement, particularly given the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ms Freeman said.
“We feel that the UK Government’s new points-based system does not meet the needs of all parts of the UK.
“We would request that the UK Government extend the EUSS deadline to help protect our communities as we continue to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
“The social care sector must be given the tools to recruit staff at all levels – including those roles not covered by the new health and care worker visa. As such, we would request that all social care roles be added to the Shortage Occupation List.”
Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, said: “Our new Health and Care Visa, plus the expansion of the occupations which qualify for it, has given employers access to skills and talent at a global level, with fast-track processing and an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
“At a time when the economic impacts of Covid-19 mean more people across Scotland face an uncertain future about their employment, it is right employers and the Scottish Government focus on domestic job seekers first, providing the training needed to take up roles in social care and the rewarding packages these workers deserve, rather than turning to UK Immigration Policy for an alternative to this.”