Charities have been urged to have their say in a consultation that will help shape the future of the UK’s immigration system.
The government's Migration Advisory Committee has been asked by the government to carry out an analysis of the potential salary thresholds for a new UK immigration system and how an Australian-style, points-based system for immigration might be applied to the UK.
A call for evidence from the MAC asks charities and other bodies to set out their views on possible salary thresholds: for example, whether a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for an experienced full-time employee would be appropriate and what impact salary thresholds might have on the supply of labour.
A paper published by the think tank the IPPR in April last year said the charity sector was "particularly exposed to restrictions on freedom of movement" and parts of the voluntary sector, particularly social work and residential care, risked facing a "perfect storm" of high employee churn, skills shortages, low pay and increasing labour demand.
The IPPR estimated that about 6.5 per cent of the UK charity sector’s workforce were non-EU nationals and a further 3.8 per cent were EU nationals.
Chetal Patel, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells, told Third Sector it was crucial that the needs of the voluntary sector were taken into account in any new system and this could happen only if charities took part in the consultation.
"Consultations like this come along rarely and there is a real danger that, by not getting involved, charities will miss out on what is a golden opportunity to determine the shape of the UK’s future immigration system," she said.
Patel said it was important that charities in different regions of the UK submitted evidence on regional salary variations so these could be considered in the formulation of any new system.
"In the section looking at the potential adoption of the Australian-style, points-based system, there’s an option to rank characteristics typically used to consider the points awarded to migrants in order of importance," she said.
"Undoubtedly, what’s most important to charities will differ from other sectors. According to the IPPR, EU nationals are more highly qualified than average but are concentrated in low-paid and low-skilled work, so it will be interesting to see if characteristics such as priority occupations or work experience might be more valuable for charities rather than age or educational attainment."
She said she thought the MAC had the voluntary sector in mind when it drew up the questions.
"Although the 200-word limit restricts contributions to very concise responses, that’s enough for charities to provide a shopping list of things such as reasonable expenses, pocket money and a cost-of-living allowance," she said.
The consultation, which can be found here, closes at 9am on 5 November.