The immigration skills charge, which was implemented in April 2017, means employers of skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area have to pay £1000, every year.
This, at a time when NHS and local authority staff shortages are making front-page news, is a serious problem.
How damaging is this charge?
It’s believed that this charge will remove a further £3.5 million from the NHS’ recruitment budget – a budget that’s already overstretched. It is not just the NHS that will suffer; in a recent parliament debate, Baroness Walmsley brought up the harsh realities of local authorities:
Care homes providers are handing back local authority contracts because they cannot provide a decent service within the amount of fees that they are paid. The number of care beds is falling while demand is rising, and 1.2 million elderly and disabled people are not receiving the care that they need.
Feedback from our recruitment partners in NHS Trusts and local authorities has been damning, with one claiming that this charge will ‘restrict the amount of staff we can pay for’. And if staffing targets aren’t met, the question of patient and public safety has to be raised.
Ultimately, it’s a hugely demoralising policy for the recruiters who are already under immense pressure. Here at HCL, we’re currently lobbying for a change in IELTS banding to improve the recruitment of international health and social care staff. But that campaign could be undermined by the immigration skills charge.
What can be done?
Put simply, the charge needs to be removed for NHS staff and local authorities.
The British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing have said the charge could have a ‘damaging impact’ on health and social care funding – and have put pressure on the government to reverse this charge. But to date, they have not forced any changes in the government’s position.
We’ll be doing our bit to raise awareness of this issue, and to support the campaign to remove this tax.