Lens Blog

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social care


posted on 21st August 2018

A new report from Global Future

Ending freedom of movement after Brexit could mean more than 100,000 fewer adult social care workers by 2026, and a 26% increase in the ratio of over-75s to care workers.

The findings come from a new analysis by think tank Global Future, which is making the case for continuing free movement after Brexit for low-skilled social care workers from the European Union to protect the adult social care sector and the millions of elderly and disabled people who rely on it.

Global Future’s analysis, in its new report: 100,000 carers missing: how ending free movement could spell disaster for elderly and disabled people, shows:

  • 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.
  • Meanwhile, there are 90,000 unfilled social care vacancies and a vacancy rate of 6.6% compared to the labour market average of 2.5%, and the sector is adding just a net 18,000 additional British workers a year.
  • If the UK applies similar immigration restrictions on European workers to those currently applied to those from outside the EU, Global Future’s analysis projects 115,000 fewer care staff in England by 2026 than if free movement continues.
  • At the same time, the Office for National Statistics projects that by 2026 there will be 1.5 million more people aged 75 or over. Without free movement the UK would need to fill 380,000 additional social care jobs just to keep up with the needs of our ageing population.
  • Global Future analysis based on Office for National Statistics projections shows that with new immigration restrictions and without a step-change in social care recruitment, the care worker to over-75 ratio is set to rise from 3.4 in 2017 to 4.3 in 2026 – a 26% increase.
    This comes at a time when:

    • Cash-strapped employers point to low pay and poor working conditions in this largely publicly-funded sector, which has been the target of cuts for several years, as the root cause of the recruitment crisis. Increasing care workers’ pay in line with the lowest-paid NHS workers would cost £3 billion – at a time when the LGA puts the existing social care funding gap at £1.4bn, set to rise to £3.6bn by 2025.
    • Industry experts warn that without migrant workers ‘we would struggle to provide care at all’.

    Global Future Director Peter Starkings said:

    “Ending free movement after Brexit would cause a social care workforce crisis. Social care is already overstretched, and cutting the number of care staff by 100,000 would have a direct impact on the quality of life of elderly and disabled people.

    “Low-skilled workers from the EU are an easy target for politicians, but we rely on them to do vital jobs supporting our elderly and disabled loved ones in care homes and in the community. Without them our social care system would quite simply be unable to function.

    “With 1.5 million more people aged over 75 in the next decade, we cannot afford to sacrifice their care for the sake of a political slogan. And with social care services already suffering a funding gap in the billions and rising there is little prospect of government showing the political will to fund the higher wages which could attract anything like enough British workers.

    “New Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock must make it a priority to protect the adult social care sector – and our elderly and disabled citizens who need care – by fighting and winning a battle within government to allow European workers to continue to work as carers.”

    The full report can be found here: https://ourglobalfuture.com/reports/100000-carers-missing/