Nadra Ahmed, who chairs the National Care Association, said the Migration Advisory Committee proposals to limit care staff recruitment from outside the EU to only skilled senior care workers would cause a recruitment nightmare.
The UK has around one million care workers, and in some areas more than half of staff are from other countries.
Ms Ahmed said that limiting recruitment outside the European Economic Area to senior staff destined to earn a minimum£8.80 an hour would exacerbate existing recruitment problems and add up to£2 an hour to the cost of providing carers.
“We have vacancy rates of between 20 and 25%, depending on what part of the country you’re in,” she said.
“Limiting the pool of workers we can hire from isn’t going to help that situation especially for domiciliary care and the personalisation agenda.”
She said English language skills among many European citizens eligible to work in the UK were often unacceptably low, compared to staff from the Philippines, India and Africa.
The finalised version of the Migration Advisory Committee’s list of 200 jobs recommended as suitable for workers from outside Europe is expected to be published next month.
Sarah Pickup, joint chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services resources committee, said she hoped the Home Office would examine the impact the proposals would have on the care industry before finalising its decision.
“We all know we face a rising demand and having a secure workforce is crucial,” she said.
“But there are very real recruitment problems and employers can’t afford to up pay levels to£8.80 an hour to hire in the staff they need.”
Ian Johnston, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers , said the 12% vacancy rate in jobs in the sector would not be helped by the committee’s plans.