The UK faces a shortage of senior carers and nursing assistants as it enters a second wave of coronavirus, the government has been warned.
The jobs need to be made “more attractive” to native British workers given freedom of movement with the EU ends later this year, the Migration Adviser Committee (MAC) urged.
It cautioned there will be “stark consequences” for workers continuing to get “low wages” – and if more funding is not announced in a “timely manner” then pressure will ramp up on the sector.
Care homes were badly hit by COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic and some locked down again several weeks ago over fears cases are growing again.
Professor Brian Bell, chair of the MAC, said he was “particularly concerned” about social care staffing levels given it is “central to the frontline response to this health pandemic”.
He warned: “It will struggle to recruit the necessary staff if wages do not increase as a matter of urgency.”
But Prof Bell added that “migration is not always the solution”, in a nod towards the many workers who could find themselves unemployed when the furlough scheme ends.
Several caring roles have been added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) – meaning workers with those skills can apply for a visa to come to the UK even if they earn less than the minimum salary threshold of £25,600.
The country is also facing a shortage of butchers, bricklayers and welders, which has prompted the prime minister to launch plans for a post-coronavirus shake-up of how Britons can train for specific jobs that need filling.
In Wales, health professionals are needed, while in Scotland it is childminders and nursery nurses.
And in Northern Ireland, fishmongers, bakers and horticultural workers have been added to the SOL.
In its report, the MAC said job vacancies have “fallen substantially” compared to last year due to the pandemic, adding that unemployment is estimated to reach 12%.
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“The number of migrants has fallen in the short term, due to COVID-19 as well as countries across the globe putting restrictions on their borders in order to prevent the spread of the virus,” the committee said.
“However, with less restrictive migration policies being implemented… we would expect to see an increase in migrants from outside the European Economic Area.
“However, with the end of free movement for those born within the EU, we would also expect to see a drop in the
number of EU-born migrants.
“This combination of factors makes it challenging to predict long-term migration trends.”