According to a government leak, following a no-deal Brexit, UK care providers will begin to feel the pressure of rising costs within two months.
The leaked documents named Operation Yellowhammer; surmises that Britain faces shortages of fuel, food and medicine.
The documents marked ‘Officially sensitive’ and requiring security clearance point out that the assessments are not worst-case scenarios, but without a trade agreement many sectors and the public as a whole will face shortages in fuels, foods and medicines.
The documents address social care and suggest that after October 31st, following a no-deal Brexit, rising costs will affect the sector and result in extended delays in medicines as three-quarters of the UK’s drugs enter the UK via the EU.
The document comments; that rising costs will hit social care with small providers impacted within 2-3 months and larger providers within 4-6 months.
Notably, it does not address people cared for in their own homes.
The documents do not mention the many thousands of elderly UK citizens already living in care homes or hospitalised, across the EU whom; following a no-deal and the cancelling of ‘Freedom of movement’ on November 1st, will almost certainly be forced to return to the UK
The documents also suggest that many businesses throughout the UK are not prepared and have not accessed advice via various government websites.
The Independent Care Group (ICG), said this document provided yet more evidence of the urgent need to tackle the social care crisis immediately.
“The Group’s Chair, Mike Padgham, said: “Social care is already in crisis with 1.4m people living without the care they need and providers failing. This latest
document about the time after a no-deal Brexit warns, potentially, of even worse to come.
“The whole sector needs urgent help, with smaller providers likely to be hit hardest and therefore in greatest need of support. We can no longer wait for the always delayed Green Paper; we have to take steps now to avert what might lie ahead. Social care must be a top priority.”
The ICG says making social care zero rated for VAT would be an excellent first step to aid providers in dealing with any rising costs.
“Altering VAT would be a start, and then we have to very quickly get more funding into social care to avert a disaster brought about through fewer and fewer providers being able to cope with increasing demand,” Mr Padgham.
He supported the call to recall Parliament to deal with Brexit and with social care.
“This crisis grows deeper by the day, and we cannot wait around any longer while people live without the care they need,” he added.
The ICG has written to the Prime Minister inviting him to visit social care providers on the frontline at its base in North Yorkshire to see the challenges facing the sector. It is calling for urgent action to be taken straight away to get extra funding into social care, even if that is before the publication of the long-delayed Green Paper. It argues that there is a human case and an economic case for supporting social care. Support for social care eases pressure on the NHS by keeping people out of costly NHS hospital beds. The sector employs 1.62m – more than the NHS – and contributes £40.5bn to the economy.
Colin Angel of the United Kingdom Home Care Association said;
“Social care providers should be preparing for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit through proper contingency planning, which includes considering worst-case scenarios.
“Contingency plans already in place for other forms of business interruption will often cover a number of the issues which a ‘no-deal’ Brexit might bring. Employers should also consider encouraging and supporting non-British EEA nationals in their workforce who qualify to obtain “settled-‘or ‘pre-settled’ status in the UK if the worker wishes to remain working in the UK after we leave the EU.”
Nadra Ahmed Executive Chairman of the National Care Association added;
“Social care providers have faced an uncertain future for many years prior to the Brexit decision, which were centred primarily on the lack of recognition of an inadequate financial investment for the sector from both local and national government. This has been kept at bay by pots of ring-fenced monies being released into the NHS and Local Authorities to ‘ease’ the pressures faced in Social Care – predictably the care Provider has drawn little or no benefit from the funds released and so elderly citizens continue to be subjected to more stringent eligibility criteria’s, which focus on crisis management rather than prevention.
“The uncertainty of Brexit has exacerbated the crisis in care as it has added to the precarious staffing position, which has been emerging due to the provider inability to meet the demands of ensuring they have skilled, trained and competent carers to meet the ever growing health care needs of the people we are now caring for. The staffing shortages caused by poor image, the perceptions of poor pay and the growing demands of the job were being kept at bay by the ability of providers to recruit European support workers and trained nurses, but we now face challenges there due to the government’s failure to recognise social care as crucial service in need of special status, at a time when the agricultural industry were able to achieve this for seasonal staff. How ironic that we are being told that we must not let fruit rot so seasonal workers are a necessity for the farming industry but it is acceptable to put social care (a 24/7) service into peril despite the 110,000 vacancies!
“This leaked document highlights how much is at stake for vulnerable citizens who are reliant on the support of others to lead meaningful and independent lives. The document highlights the uncertainty in supplies of medication and possible disruption in access to fuel! Fuel shortages will be devastating for our homecare providers and their ability to fulfil obligation to those who rely on them. In addition to the obvious devastation which would be caused if medical supplies are delayed through the ports we have to think of the challenges of fresh food and equipment supplies etc.
“The reality is social care provision has been the backbone of both the NHS and community services delivering care at the point of need so warm words from the Prime Minister are just not going to cut the mustard…the time for platitudes has passed…! If we want to ensure that we do not betray the frail and vulnerable citizens of our country because of an inept ability to resolve and reverse the crisis with sustainable long term solutions we will see the consequences of local and central government’s failings and the loss of a critical services across the country.”
Mei-Ling Huang, a Partner is the Social Care team at the law firm Royds Withy King comments.
“The Government’s assessment of social care following a no deal Brexit will not surprise those working in the sector, yet it is alarming to read this stark picture in official government documents.
“The Government has not offered any suggestions to address this impending crisis apart from empty political rhetoric. Prime Minister Johnson’s promise to look to the ‘spirit of cross-party agreement’ to bring forward proposals will not deliver much needed staff or funding.
“Our own research with the Care Association Alliance in March this year points to the need for the sector to recruit 128,000 people every year. Currently, it is managing to attract just 20,000. And given that 33% of care sector nurses are recruited from within the EU – rising to 68% in London – the sector needs close ties with Europe.”
Some sensible suggestions are being put forward by the industry, including a VAT exemption for the sector to ease cost pressures. Royds Withy King also recommends that social care staff are recognised as key workers with immigration restrictions eased.
Mei-Ling adds: “The demand for social care is increasing at a time when spending cuts are digging ever harder. Staff costs are rising at a time when immigration controls are being tightened yet our politicians still look to dodge the serious debate that is needed.
“We understand that there are many pressing priorities for the Prime Minister but delivering a basic level of care for the most vulnerable in a civilised society must be top of that list.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
“The social care workforce is already struggling but shutting the door on staff from the EU after Brexit would undoubtedly make a bad situation even worse. Live-in care and care of all kinds in London and the South of England seem especially threatened, given the high representation of EU nationals in these parts of the workforce, and there’s no way these people can be quickly or easily replaced. Social care is already finding it very difficult to recruit and retain staff and turning off the tap from the EU would be a self-inflected wound we could well do without.
“It’s important to highlight that while care work is low paid, it is certainly not low skilled. The Government should recognise this and allow EU nationals to continue to come here and work as paid carers. Otherwise, it is thousands of older and disabled people and their families who will end up paying a high price for the Government’s policy own goal.”
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