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Brexit, we need assurance for EU workers to ease the social care crisis

Blog Post 6 July 2017

It was just a matter of time before someone mentioned Brexit and staff drain in social care.

Both special care providers and the NHS are losing vital staff.

I read that in 2016, 209,000 people working in the sector in the UK were EU nationals, up from 121,000 in 2009 – a rise of 72 per cent (Office for National Statistics).

But since the 2016 EU referendum figures show that the number of non-British EU nationals who said they worked in the UK public sector tumbled by 27,000.

Care England chief executive Martin Green says the problem of EU nationals now leaving is “quite significant”.

In The Guardian he’s quoted as saying: “One of the things we are seeing is that people are making decisions [to leave] when they are thinking about the next phase [of their career], or have been here two years. The other problem is that they are not being replaced.”

Clearly the future is uncertain for all of us and the message from Professor Green is one that many care providers on my patch will understand only too well.

It’s a problem which the NHS shares – England alone has a shortage of 40,000 nurses and 3,500 midwives, according to the Royal College of Nurses.

We need desperately the EU nationals who take some 90,000 jobs in England’s social care workforce (Skills for Care data).

According to NHS Digital figures for March 2017, a record number of EU nationals are also working in hospital and community health services (61,934), up from 57,604 12 months ago.

The number includes 10,668 doctors, 22,232 nurses and health visitors, 1,384 midwives, and 7,383 scientific, therapeutic and technical staff.

We need assurances NOW that those currently in the social care/NHS employment loop can remain in the UK post Brexit.

Meanwhile, staffing pressures will continue to mount with new levers of tension above and beyond what’s been ‘normal’ for years within the care sector.

My fear is that proposals by the government to allow all EU nationals living in the UK to apply for “settled status” post-Brexit will just add to the problems.

All 3 million EU citizens living here will have to apply to be included on the “settled status” register.

This may just be a day when chocolate is on the menu for breakfast.