‘The logic was tortuous and irrational’
Led by Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson, a cohort of Tory MPs has launched an extreme plan to cut the number of overseas workers in care, despite desperate staff shortages in the sector.
The plan pedalled by the right-wing Tory faction, New Conservative Group, aims their attention at workers in the care sector as part of a wider plan to drive down net immigration.
This is despite the care sector currently facing a gap of 165,000 staff vacancies, at its highest rate since records began in 2012/13. The vacancy rate also increased by a shocking 52% in 2021/22, due to a recruitment and retention crisis.
However, this hasn’t stopped the group, who include Tom Hunt and Mariam Cates, pushing out a plan to block work visas in the sector all together amid an extreme right-wing anti-immigration sentiment.
The 10-point plan includes closing the temporary schemes that grant eligibility for care workers visas, closing the graduate route to students and raising the main skilled work visa salary threshold.
Speaking on Radio 4 Today this morning Miriam Cates attempted to justify the extreme plan however fell on a number of inaccuracies.
Asked about the fact there were 210,000 nurses and carers who came to the UK last year on temporary workers visas to plug huge staff shortfalls and how these workers are crucial in the sector, Cates skirted addressing the issue.
“We do need workers in the NHS there’s no doubt about that, but I think we can have an argument about whether we are ever going to make care work an attractive career for British people if we continue to allow lots and lots of people from abroad to come and do that job. Who don’t by the way necessarily stay in the NHS,” said Cates.
Journalist Ian Birrell took apart her argument by pointed out that the care sector and NHS are separate topics and blasted the Tory Brexiteers for pushing for further restrictions on free movement.
“One of these MPs, demonstrates astonishing lack of knowledge about health and social care on @BBCr4today by saying carers from abroad ‘don’t necessarily stay in the NHS.’ Could someone explain to her that social care is separate to the NHS?’.” Wrote Birrell on Twitter.
He added: “Needless to say, these are the Brexiteers who stopped free movement and thus prevented entry for thousands of terrific care workers while making the country poorer. They have no shame.”
Cates went on to use what she called a ‘really important’ analogy to the HGV driver shortage which was plugged by a temporary visa scheme. She arguing that this visa schemes didn’t work to fill the gaps and that the issue was solved without it.
However this was swiftly rebuked online for being false, as Zoe Gardner, spokesperson on refugees and migration, pointed to the government website where it states 4,700 HGV drivers were added to the visa scheme which allowed up to 300 extra fuel drivers to come to the UK from October 2021 to March 2022. Therefore flooring Cates ‘important’ arguement.
The Tory MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge went on to argue that she was ‘not going to get into’ the question of how much care workers should be paid, which is odd given their argument is about bringing up the pay and conditions of care workers to make it more attractive to British workers. When asked what the hourly rate for a worker in a residential care home should be, Cates said she did not know.
One Twitter user described listening to Cates describe the plan as ‘tortuous and irrational’.
“Listened to Miriam Cates this morning on Today programme. The best I can say is that the logic was tortuous and irrational. To those that rely on the Care sector it will seem uncaring and a sure fire vote loser for the Tories.”
The outrageous plan has be slammed for apparently seeking to remove 82,000 staff out of a sector which is already on its knees.
Miriam Cates previously faced controversy when she was accused of ‘profiting’ from food poverty after an app she owns was said to charge foodbanks to list their items on.
Downing Street has rejected the call for the ban with a spokesperson for the Prime Minister stating that it is ‘not an approach we’re considering currently’.
Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward
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