Fears grow that Brexit could cause staff shortages in social care

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A Dorset care provider has spoken out over fears escalating recruitment problems and vacancy rates in the care system could get worse after Britain leaves the European Union.

Dorset elderly care providers raise concerns that staff shortages could worsen after Brexit
Brian Westlake

Brian Westlake, chairman of Dorset and Somerset care organisation Altogether Care said:

Social care has benefited from free movement of labour across the EU, hence the vision of tens of thousands of care workers packing their bags and heading home to other EU states after a British withdrawal is one that the fills the hearts of social care employers with dread.”

He added that an estimated 6 per cent of jobs in the care sector are filled by EU migrants, which equates to 80,000 people in England.

Mr. Westlake continued: “Reducing immigration is one of Brexit’s aims so it’s highly unlikely that the UK will relax controls on people entering the country to be part of the care workforce.”

“There’s already a grave shortage of trained nurses in the UK and applications from Eastern Europe had decreased by 93% in the last year. The impact of European nurses leaving the county will be a catastrophe”

Mike French, the managing director of Caremark Weymouth and West Dorset, said he did not feel his staff would be affected as they were mostly UK nationals but other services may be hit.

“Where the likely impact is going to be is live-in care staff. This is generally where those from overseas fit in. People locally are not prepared to give that sort of commitment,” he said.

However, Peter Fry of Friary Care said care providers needed to wait and not overreact.

“It’s better to just wait and see what happens and keep calm.”

I’m sure workers from the EU will still get here and be able to work. It may be a positive thing, in that we will get people from other parts of the world,” he said.

Mr. Westlake responded that he did not think this would be the case as the process of hiring from outside the EU had been made so onerous, it was almost impossible.

Dorset County Council issued a statement which said: “The UK Government has made it absolutely clear how important it is that we secure as early as possible the rights of EU citizens in the UK.”

The council said staff already living in the UK had been provided with advice as issued by central government which stated: “We want to ensure EU citizens continue to not only be able to live here as they do now but also to continue enjoying other important rights such as access to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.”

“These rights will apply to all EU citizens equally and we will not treat citizens of one member state differently to those of another.”

Mike Padgham of the Independent Care Group also said:

“Uncertainly about the social care workforce must be resolved as part of the Government’s pressing responsibility to negotiate the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“A well-functioning care system will only be fit for purpose if the nation’s social care and health services can recruit a sufficient workforce for the needs of our population as we leave the EU.”

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