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BASW NI Statement on the Migration Advisory Committee’s Recommendations on salary thresholds for immigration

BASW NI has cautiously welcomed the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations to the UK Government on salary thresholds for immigration.

The MAC report comes in the context of high levels of social work vacancies across Health and Social Care (HSC) in NI. To address this problem, it is essential the Department of Health expedites recruitment to vacant posts, implements measures to retain staff in services where turnover is greatest, and ensures sufficient numbers of social workers are trained to meet current and future demand. However, if, in future, it is found there is a need to attract social workers from abroad to fill vacancies, it is vital the UK immigration system is able to facilitate social workers from outside the Common Travel Area to work in NI.

The majority of vacancies in the Northern Ireland statutory Health and Social Care sector are at Agenda for Change (AFC) Band 6 level and BASW NI argued in its response to the MAC consultation on the Salary Threshold and Points-Based System Commission that the threshold for social workers should be set no higher than the starting point of the AFC Band 6—£27,772.

BASW NI is therefore pleased the MAC has recommended the immigration salary threshold should be reduced to £25,600 and national pay scales should be used as the relevant salary thresholds for 24 occupations, including social work.

Government must recognise, however, that AFC pay scales vary across the UK. While BASW NI fully supports increases in the NI levels to ensure pay parity with GB, as long as disparity between pay scales remains, salary thresholds for overseas social workers seeking to work in NI must be set in line with NI AFC scales.

BASW NI is concerned, however, at the MAC’s failure to ensure the immigration system enables recruitment to jobs with high public value but not high wages. There are approximately 38,000 registered social care workers in Northern Ireland, many of whom earn the minimum wage. The service provided by social care workers is critical to supporting many aspects of social work, particularly in relation to older people’s services, learning disability services and physical disability services.

The association recognises the public value of social care work is often not reflected in the wages paid to social care staff and agrees with the MAC that issues of low pay should be treated as such and not as an issue for the immigration system to adjust for. However, notwithstanding the need for an uplift in pay for social care staff, it is essential that further consideration is given to ensure immigration salary thresholds do not impede the ability of employers to recruit and retain social care workers from overseas.

ENDS

Conatct—Andy McClenaghan, BASW NI Public Affairs and Communications Officer: a.mcclenaghan@basw.co.uk / 028 9064 8873 / 07702 517560

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