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Maintaining the care workforce, post-Brexit

Posted on 28/09/2016

We’ve had time to let the dust settle since the Brexit vote back in June, and it is easier to see the current and potential future impact across the UK and its services.

The biggest area of concern for the care sector was unveiled in a new report from Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre (ILC), which discusses the future residence rights of EU migrants living in Britain and the impact on the care workforce. There is currently no definite answer regarding changes to the immigration status of such care workers, but the report shows that around 6% of England’s current social care workforce are EEA migrants, of which over 90% do not have British Citizenship (around 78,000 people). If they were to lose their right to work in England, there could be severe consequences for the care sector. It would create a workforce gap between the number of social care workers England has and the number of people needing a care worker.

The problem is twofold: first, existing social care workers may be unable to remain in their roles, leaving a large number of vacant positions; and second, there are already recruitment shortages and without overseas candidates taking those roles, this shortfall would only increase unless the care sector becomes more attractive to UK-born workers. The number of older people in the UK is set to double over the next 20 years with more than 5.8 million people needing support, putting pressure on the industry.

This is not something that will happen immediately and non-British EU workers continue to have the right to live and work in the UK. The government has stated that it wants to protect the status of EU nationals already living in the country. The uncertainty in the wake of Brexit, alongside budget cuts, staff shortages and rising numbers of people with care needs, means that social care is already struggling to meet demand, says a telling report from The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust. It is thought that the ‘care ratio’ would increase from the current one care worker per seven older people, to one care worker per 13.5 older people.   

So, what can be done? The Independent Age and ILC report recommends that the sector increases its attractiveness to British-born workers, that the immigration policy going forward reflects the needs of older and disabled people who rely on social care services, and changes to the way that care is funded and delivered in England.

Becoming a paid carer can be a varied and fulfilling role, with plenty of job opportunities around the country. If you are interested in a new career in care, whether as a self-employed paid carer or working as an employee, then our Paid Carers section on the website has everything you need to get you started. 

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