Commons Home Affairs Committee calls for wider visa extensions
The Commons Home Affairs Committee has urged the government to extend free visa extensions to all NHS and social care workers from overseas, regardless of their specific roles.
The Home Office recently announced a free one-year visa extension for some NHS and social care personnel. This initially covered the roles of NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics, but in April the scheme was extended to cater for other NHS roles including radiographers, social workers and some roles in the social care sector.
However, with other lower paid roles such as porters and cleaners remaining overlooked, the committee has called for the free visa extension scheme to be extended to all personnel in the sector, calling it “unfair” that some are being left facing the prospect of paying thousands to remain in the UK.
The committee also said that by excluding such roles, the government was “failing to recognise the scale of their contribution to the UK fight against Covid-19”.
The committee said: “Many of the excluded NHS employees - who include hospital porters, cleaners and administrative staff - are providing essential services to the NHS and its patients at this most trying time.
"They are also more likely to be in lower-paid job roles, meaning that the necessity of paying visa renewal fees is a much greater financial burden."
The committee’s chair, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, added: "Excluding the care workers who hold dying residents' hands, the cleaners who scrub the door handles and floors of the Covid wards, or the porters who take patients to intensive care is just wrong.”
The extension currently applies to visas that are set to expire between March 31 and October 1, 2020, with around 3,000 frontline workers currently benefiting from it, the government says.
Back in May, the government opted to axe the immigration health surcharge to use the NHS for all NHS personnel and care workers. It has also extended the Home Office bereavement scheme to entitle the families of NHS staff and care workers to permanent UK residence in the event that the worker dies of coronavirus.
A government spokesperson said: "We are incredibly grateful for all the hard work that health and care workers continue to do in the fight against coronavirus.
"Right across the immigration system we are supporting NHS and other eligible health and care workers."
However, the committee feels that more must be done, with Cooper looking to table an amendment to the government’s Immigration Bill.
The committee’s report also adds: “We believe that people who have given so much, and in many cases risked their own health, for the nations and people of the UK should be assisted to become permanent members of the society to which they have dedicated themselves."