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Care workers are being called “low-skilled”, and that’s not OK

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Hollie Richardson
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Following the news that “low-skilled workers” will not get visas under post-Brexit immigration plans, people are calling out the fact that care work does not get the recognition is deserves.

Social care is an issue that affects us all. We’re living longer than ever before, which means there’s a growing demand for care – paid and unpaid – for elderly, disabled and mentally or physically ill people.

According to Carers UK, one in eight adults are currently unpaid carers (that’s just over six million people). It also predicts that three in five people in the UK will become an unpaid carer at some point in their lives. And as many as one in five children and young people are unpaid carers.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of these carers (58%) are women, and it’s predicted that half of all women will become carers by 46. Eight in 10 people caring for loved ones say they have felt lonely or socially isolated. And, because of the significant demands of caring, around 600 people give up work every day to care for an older or disabled relative.

This is why the social care crisis needs to be a priority on the UK’s political agenda. Charities and organisations like The Health Foundation are calling for more investment, better access to adult social care, and a more stabilised and sustainable system. 

Now, new post-Brexit plans proposed by government have prompted people to call out just how much care work is currently undervalued. 

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Unveiling an Australian-style points system on Wednesday (19 February), the government said it will close its borders to “unskilled workers” and those who can’t speak English as part of a fundamental overhaul of immigration laws. The salary threshold for “skilled workers” wanting to come to the UK would be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600. However, the threshold would be as low as £20,480 for people in “specific shortage occupations” – which currently includes nursing.

But BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle has pointed out that the majority of people employed by the adult social care sector are low-paid care workers.

He says: “There are already significant shortages - one in 11 posts are unfilled. Foreign workers make up a sixth of the 840,000-strong care worker workforce in England. It is hard to see how in the future these staff could qualify.

“Even if it is classed as a skilled job – and even that is in doubt, as many workers do not come via an A-level route – the pay at under £20,000 on average is too low to qualify for any points. Nor is the role classed a shortage occupation.

“It seems certain applicants will fall well-short of the 70 points needed.”

Many people have taken to Twitter to support this view, including people who have recently relied on care work to help a relative and politicians and who disagree with the proposals.

As the Women’s Equality Party points out, this move will leave a “social care gap which women will be expected to fill with unpaid caring”.

It’s time for care work to be properly valued with pay and respect.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…