Social care workers do not qualify for the government's new health and care visa under the UK's post-Brexit immigration system, Downing Street has confirmed.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has unveiled details of how the UK's new points-based system will operate when it comes into effect on 1 January next year, after EU freedom of movement rules end.
A health and care visa will provide a route for key health professionals to work in the UK.
However, this will not include social care workers, Number 10 revealed.
The prime minister's official spokesman said the government wants employers to "invest more in training and development for care workers in this country".
He said: "On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5bn of funding for social care in 2021-22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign."
Existing EU workers in the care sector could apply to stay in the UK through the settlement scheme "and a very large number have done so", the spokesman added.
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"Those people will remain in the UK providing really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable."
Speaking during a visit to London Ambulance Service on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will have a "humane and sensible" immigration system after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
"Although of course we are going to be taking back control and we are controlling our immigration system we're not going to be simply slamming the gates and stopping anybody anywhere coming into this country," he said.
Asked if he thinks there will be enough people to coming into the country to work in the social care system, Mr Johnson replied: "I do.
"Don't forget, one of the amazing things we've seen in the last few months is actually there are more EU nationals, I'm proud to say, living and working in this country than we even thought.
"We're seeing huge numbers of people registering for their right to remain and that's great so we have a big, big stock of workers who are helping out in this country who have come from abroad."
But the failure to include care workers in the new NHS visa was criticised in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, described the move as "patently the wrong decision".
"Reforming and refinancing care will take time, if it happens at all, so the prudent approach would be to keep the door open to EU-based social care staff at all levels for 3-5 years at least," she posted on Twitter.
The prime minister recently came under fire for claiming "too many" in the sector "didn't really follow the procedures" during the coronavirus crisis.
And Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds asked: "What does this government have against care workers?
"The latest papers on the proposed immigration system confirm that the Tories do not consider carers as skilled workers.
"Have they learned nothing from this crisis? We will be seeking urgent clarification on this."