Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill: Bishop of Durham supports amendments on social care workforce and children in care

On Wednesday 30th September 2020 the House of Lords considered amendments to the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill during its Report Stage. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in support of two amendments, on:

  • Researching and reporting on the impact on the social care workforce.
  • Ensuring that children of EEA and Swiss nationals, in care and entitled to care leaving support, do not become undocumented by receiving automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Votes on the amendments were deferred until the following week due to technical problems.

Amendment 3

Lord Rosser

3) : After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Impact of section 1 on the social care sector

(1) The Secretary of State must commission and publish an independent assessment of the impact of section 1, and Schedule 1, on the social care sector within six months of this Act being passed.

(2) The Secretary of State must appoint an independent Chair to conduct the assessment.

(3) The assessment must consider the impact of provisions in section 1, and Schedule 1, on—(a) the social care workforce;(b) available visa routes for social care workers;(c) long-term consequences for workforce recruitment, training and employee terms and conditions; and(d) such other relevant matters as the independent Chair deems appropriate.

(4) A copy of the independent assessment must be laid before both Houses of Parliament within fourteen days of its publishing date.”

Member’s explanatory statement: This new Clause would require the Secretary of State to commission and publish an independent report on the impact of ending free movement on the social care sector, including the impact on the workforce (such as skills shortages), visa options for social care workers, and long-term consequences for recruitment, training and terms and conditions for staff.

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 3. First, I draw attention to my interest, as recorded in the register, of receiving support from the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy project.

In Committee, I spoke to an amendment that would facilitate the immigration of highly skilled people who had been forcibly displaced by war or persecution. I am glad that the Government have responded positively to that proposal, which others in this place spoke in support of.

I thank the Minister for the helpful and productive meeting that I had with her and her colleague, the Immigration Minister. I was joined by Talent Beyond Boundaries and Fragomen. I hope that she will be willing to place on the record today the Government’s commitment to developing a pilot for health workers, possibly in the education and business sectors. I and others here who are interested will be keen for her to update the House on progress in due course. Following that positive meeting and the promises made at it, I have not pressed the amendment that I tabled in Committee because of the Government’s constructive willingness to further develop the proposal, which applies to the health and social care area.

The Government, rightly, are keen to welcome those who wish to come here with the skills to support themselves and whom businesses in the UK are ready to employ. I am therefore puzzled that social care seems not to receive the attention in immigration policy that it should.

We all know that the average pay of care workers is not high. Indeed, the figures that I have seen suggest that it is typically around £17,000 per annum. This means that such workers will not qualify for a work visa, even with a reduced salary threshold. I know that the Government wish to encourage employers to increase salaries and train domestic workers, rather than allow migration to be used as a shortcut or cost-saving measure. That is welcome, although of course it will require the Minister and her colleagues to have stern conversations with their colleagues in other departments about the necessity for a better-funded care system. Such a system will also need radically better joint working between health and social care, as highlighted, for example, in the 2016 King’s Fund report, Supporting Integration Through New Roles and Working Across Boundaries.

The Migration Advisory Committee is surely right that over the long term the solution to our care crisis lies in raising wages to attract more domestic workers, rather than using migrant workers to plug the gap. Nevertheless, the MAC was also surely right to point out this week that the cliff edge of ending free movement in the middle of a global pandemic, in which care workers are very much on the front line of safeguarding ​our most vulnerable neighbours, friends and family, will very much increase the pressure on the system, as the MAC puts it.

Those of us who support the amendment hardly support low wages for key workers—far from it. I believe strongly in a real living wage above the national minimum wage and in care workers being appropriately recognised and rewarded for their vital work. We are concerned that the blunt treatment of social care in the new immigration system poses significant systemic problems that could include staff shortages. The impact of those shortages will be felt by the most vulnerable in our society who rely on social care. They deserve better than “fingers crossed”, which is, I am afraid, the impression that we are left with of the current approach.

I am not unused to working within institutions with byzantine processes—I am a bishop of the Church of England, for goodness’ sake, as well as in this place. Therefore, I have some sympathy with the Government’s desire to simplify the immigration system and to resist a proliferation of special routes for particular circumstances, yet simplification is not a virtue if it becomes inflexibility or bluntness in the application of rules that will exclude from coming to the UK the very people our care sector most urgently requires. The creation of a health and care visa has, of course, been welcome news, but I know that my puzzlement that social care appears not to be adequately included is shared by others.

The amendment strikes me as modest but important. It places on the Government merely a duty to publish an independent assessment of the impact of ending free movement on the social are sector. Since international workers account for one-sixth of care workers in England, we would have to be dangerously incurious not to want to know the impact that the biggest change in immigration policy in a generation has on a sector that cares for the most vulnerable among us. Such reports as we have had already from the MAC and others only confirm that there is a knotty problem still to unravel in this tangle of issues about chronic low pay and an unnecessary reliance on skilled migrant carers. I will therefore support the amendment.

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Amendment 14

Lord Dubs

14): After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—

“Children in care and children entitled to care leaving support: entitlement to remain

​(1) Any child who has the right of free movement removed by the provisions contained in Part 1 of this Act, and who is in the care of a local authority or entitled to care leaving support, is deemed to have and be granted indefinite leave to remain within the United Kingdom under the EU Settlement Scheme (“the Scheme”).

(2) The Secretary of State must, for the purposes of subsection (1), issue guidance to local authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting out their duty to identify the children of EEA and Swiss nationals in their care or entitled to care leaving support.

(3) Before issuing guidance under this section the Secretary of State must consult—(a) the relevant Scottish Minister;(b) the relevant Welsh Minister; and(c) the relevant Northern Ireland Minister.

(4) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data relating to nationality processed by local authorities for purposes of identification under subsection (1) is used solely for this purpose.

(5) Any child subject to subsection (1) who is identified and granted indefinite leave to remain status after the deadline for applications under the Scheme will be deemed to have had such status and all rights associated with that status from the time of the Scheme deadline.

(6) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed and remains in effect for 5 years from the day of the deadline of the Scheme.

(7) For the purposes of this section, children “in the care of a local authority” are defined as children receiving care under any of the following provisions—(a) section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (provision of accommodation for children: general);(b) section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (care and supervision);(c) section 75 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (general duty of local authority to secure sufficient accommodation for looked after children);(d) section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (provision of accommodation for children);(e) Article 25 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (interpretation); and(f) Article 50 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (care orders and supervision orders).

(8) For the purposes of this section, a child “entitled to care leaving support” means a child receiving support under any of the following provisions—(a) paragraph 19B of Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989 (preparation for ceasing to be looked after);(b) section 23A(2) of the Children Act 1989 (the responsible authority and relevant children);(c) section 23C(1) of the Children Act 1989 (continuing functions in respect of former relevant children);(d) section 104 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (young people entitled to support under sections 105 to 115);(e) sections 29 and 30 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (advice and assistance for young persons formerly looked after by local authorities); and(f) Article 35(2) of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (persons qualifying for advice and assistance).”

Member’s explanatory statement: This new Clause aims to ensure that the children of EEA and Swiss nationals who are in care, and those who are entitled to care leaving support, are granted automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they do not become undocumented.

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]:  My Lords, I too speak in favour of this amendment and support fully the explanation of why it is needed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, but also the very helpful interventions by the noble Baronesses, Lady Meacher and Lady Smith, who asked for clarification of just what the objection is. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, I do not read the amendment as declaratory. It is about being granted indefinite status but, as both noble Baronesses said, if the Government can come up with slightly better wording, fine.

I simply remind the Minister and the Government that it is their responsibility to protect the most vulnerable children in our society, which surely includes children in care. They have an added vulnerability when they have uncertain status, so it is absolutely the Government’s responsibility to ensure that these children are not left with anything indefinite at all about their standing, and that their welcome as part of our society is clear.

In the Psalms, the King is told that he is to

“defend the cause of the poor of the people”

and

“give deliverance to the children of the needy”.

The King in those days, of course, had absolute rule. For our current purposes, it falls upon the Government to defend the cause and give deliverance to the children of the needy. I hope the Minister will agree that this amendment is necessary and that if it needs altering, she will bring back the relevant changes at Third Reading.

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