The effect of Brexit on the UK’s social care sector

The UK’s social care sector is already under an immense amount of pressure. The ageing population is causing demand to rocket, which is resulting in an estimated deficit of around 90,000 staff vacancies. Now, charities are warning that one of the most serious effects of Brexit could mean a “domino effect” in the sector which will make the crisis even worse.

Charities are increasingly having to step in where there are shortages in NHS services. These charities are reliant on EU migrant workers to fill their staff vacancies. They’ve warned that around 87% of these workers wouldn’t meet the conditions that are currently imposed on non-EU nationals and that it would leave that “facing a perfect storm of high employee churn, skills shortages, low pay, and increasing labour demand”.

To add to these concerns, social care charities believe it would be more difficult to recruit the staff they need from outside the EU, as well as struggling to handle complex work visas. Even with skilled workers, under the current immigration laws, the health services are already stretched and struggling with the migration caps on doctors and nurses.

According to a recent survey of 100 charities in the UK, around 50% of charities think it will be more difficult for them to recruit enough staff. Another 62% responded that they had not experience using the UK visa system and recruiting non-EU nationals would cause issues. Funding issues also mean that hiring workers domestically wouldn’t be a viable option.

The researchers who conducted the survey said that while “the imposition of immigration controls post-Brexit could lead to a dramatic shift in employers’ ability to recruit from the EU”, it also means that “falling net EU migration since the referendum result suggests that an impact could be felt even before any changes to free movement rules are introduced”.

Marley Morris, senior research fellow at IPPR and author of the report, said: “So far the debate about ending freedom of movement has focused on the consequences for the private and public sectors. But the charity sector too will feel the effects of restricting EU migration, which could have a domino effect on the delivery of social care. The government needs a joined-up approach to immigration rules, skills policy and social care workforce planning to ensure that Brexit provides an opportunity to alleviate, not exacerbate, the continuing pressures on our care system.”

A Home Office spokesperson commented: “After we leave the EU, we will have in place an immigration system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK. This system will be based on evidence. The government has commissioned advice from the Migration Advisory Committee and we continue to engage with a range of stakeholders, including businesses, NHS leaders and those in the social care sector.”

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