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Social care disaster looms

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Employers have been warned of a deepening crisis in the social care sector which will affect hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled people in the UK. A new report by the think tank Global Future predicts a bleak future for social care in the UK – unless the Government takes action, and strikes a deal to guarantee free movement of EU staff to help care for the booming elderly population.

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Report predicts staff shortfall

The report says more money is needed to meet care standards and that low wages and poor conditions are deterring British workers from entering and staying in the industry. Using Office of National Statistics data, Global Future predicts that England will have a shortfall of 380,000 workers by 2026 unless low-skilled roles can be filled with people from overseas, something at odds with the Government’s Brexit plans.

The UK’s 1.45 million adult social care workforce is currently short of 90,000 staff, a vacancy rate of 6.6 per cent – three times higher than the UK labour market average. Social care workers are employed by some 20,300 organisations. Care workers and home carers are set to be the fastest growing occupation over the next decade. Demand for carers is growing as the UK’s population ages. It is estimated that by 2026 there will be just under 6 million people over 75 in the UK, an increase of 1.5 million from the current figure. There will be a 20% increase in the number of 65 year olds in the UK.

Who’s working in the social sector now?

Currently, 222,000 social care staff in England – 17% of the total – are from overseas. Since 2012, the number of care workers from outside the EU has fallen as a result of strict controls on low-skilled non-EU workers, but the number from inside the EU has risen, leaving the total number of foreigners working in the sector roughly constant. If the UK imposes similar immigration restrictions on European workers, Global Future’s analysis projects 115,000 fewer European care staff in England by 2026 than if free movement continues.

What does the future hold for the social care sector?

Social care employers have been aware of the staffing crisis in the sector for some time and these predictions won’t come as a surprise. There are many factors, but Brexit is a cause for alarm because of the great reliance on EU workers. The likelihood is that in the absence of free movement, EU workers will be able to work in the UK under a time-limited visa; however how much that will appeal to European workers remains to be seen. The other huge issue for employers is that they cannot attract and retain British workers, many of whom leave after a short period of time. They are put off by low wages and poor conditions. Four out of five workers are women, and most are not highly paid.

What can you do now to prepare?

We are advising our clients to make plans now and many are already working in partnership with schools and colleges, as well as agencies in Europe to attract staff. Whilst pay is the best incentive, good working conditions and other perks of the job are also valuable to workers. There is great deal of uncertainty about the situation and keeping abreast of the changes is not always easy. In the coming months, we will be holding seminars on Brexit and immigration for our clients to help them and their workers to navigate the new rules as and when they arrive. We also offer workshops for European staff regarding Brexit and settlement.

For tailored advice on the implications of Brexit on the social care sector, how this may affect your workforce and what you can do now to prepare, or for advice on any related issues, please contact our Business Immigration specialist Helen Murphie:

020 7583 2222     Email

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