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I fully agree with my hon. Friend, and he has read my mind as that is exactly the point I was coming to in my speech.
The Home Office proposals for a new points-based immigration system will be hugely damaging to the social care sector in Scotland. The UK Government have reneged on their promise to deliver an immigration system that works for the whole of the UK: it does not work for it at all. Scotland needs people to contribute at all levels of the economy in vital, challenging roles in social care and elsewhere.
The Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population reports that
“less than 10% of those in caring personal service occupations in Scotland earn above £25,000”.
The Nuffield Trust advises that
“the proposed new migration system will soon bar people from coming to the UK to work in most frontline social care jobs, even if these are defined as a shortage occupation” where the proposed lower minimum income limit of £20,480 far exceeds the average salary of a full-time private sector care worker, which in the UK is £16,200 per year. I am pleased that the Scottish average is higher than that, but it still falls far short of that income criteria.
The UK Government’s supposition that people working in social care are “low skilled” is, quite frankly, offensive. We value all those who contribute to our economy and society and they are welcome in Scotland, wherever they come from. The UK Government have ignored the evidence presented to them by the Scottish Government, businesses and industry on Scotland’s labour market needs. Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, told BBC Radio Scotland:
“This immigration proposal, far from enhancing the economic wellbeing of our country, will put a lot of the care sector, a lot of hospitality and other sectors in Scotland at considerable risk.”
He went on to add:
“What is low-skilled about a worker being with somebody at the end of their life, or somebody giving comfort to an individual with dementia?”
Those are sentiments I am sure we could all agree with.
I am in no doubt that social care will be damaged by the proposed immigration proposals, not least because a significant proportion of social care workers are from Europe. If we are to fix the problems of social care workforce shortages, we need an immigration system that is fit for the purpose. With existing workforce shortages added to the pressure to recruit, which is going to become harder as a result, combined with the number of Scots over 80 with social care needs set to increase by 68% by 2036, we face a very serious challenge. If the UK policy does not meet our requirements, then at the very least Holyrood must be given the powers to develop a separate Scottish visa to protect our public services and our economy. Of course, what we really need are the normal powers of independence.