Watchdog gives damning verdict on social care visa policy

The former head of the UK borders watchdog has issued a damning verdict on the Home Office’s social care visa policy.

David Neal, who was sacked from his role as independent chief inspector of borders and immigration last month, issued the scathing indictment in a new report published this week.

The former chief inspector said the implementation of the social care visa policy demonstrated the Home Office’s “limited understanding of the social care sector, its underestimation of demand for the Care Worker visa, the inappropriateness of its sponsor licensing regime for low-skilled roles, and the mismatch between its meagre complement of compliance officers and ever-expanding register of licensed sponsors”.

Neal said the current system “invited large numbers of low-skilled workers to this country who are at risk from exploitation” with “totally inadequate” measures to control risks.

The report illustrates the “shocking” example of a care home that did not exist being issued 275 sponsorship certificates and 1,234 certificates being granted to a company that stated it had only four employees when given a licence.

Inspectors found migrants with care visas working illegally in two out of eight enforcement visits between August and October 2023.


UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards said the “inept approach to the awarding of care visas has given dodgy employers total freedom to exploit overseas staff at whim”.

“The government has failed everyone in care – the good employers, the staff and all those in need of support,” Edwards added.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have already intervened to stop the flow of overseas care workers entering the UK where there is no genuine role for them to undertake and taken robust action against businesses committing labour exploitation. 

“We do not tolerate illegal activity in the labour market, and we will continue to revoke licenses from those who abuse the system. New measures already in force will cut the rising numbers of visas granted and address significant concerns about high levels of non-compliance, worker exploitation and abuse.

“As with all our policies, we will keep them under close review and if needed, we will not hesitate to go further.”

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