In brief: 100,000 carers missing: how ending free movement could spell disaster for elderly and disabled people.
This report makes the case for continuing free movement for low-skilled European workers seeking work in our adult social care sector.
England’s adult social care sector relies on foreign born workers – almost one in five of those who care for our elderly and disabled people are migrant workers. The sector already has a staffing crisis and has experienced a funding squeeze since 2010, but in recent years European workers have helped to plug the gaps as the number of non-EU workers has fallen.
Our analysis shows that if the UK applies similar restrictions on European workers to those currently applied to those from outside the EU, there could be more than 100,000 fewer care staff in England by 2026 than if free movement continues – and 350,000 additional social care jobs to fill just to keep up with the needs of our ageing population.
Global Future finds:
- Ending freedom of movement could lead to 115,000 fewer social care staff by 2026, compared to the number expected if freedom of movement is retained.
- 17% of social care staff in England – around 222,000 workers – are from overseas, with the number of EU care staff rising and the number of non-EU care staff, who are subject to strict immigration controls, falling over the last five years.
- There is currently one care worker for every 3.4 people aged over 75: to keep this ratio the same as the population ages, our care sector will need to employ an additional 380,000 staff by 2026 – but the sector is currently adding just 18,000 British workers a year.
- With new immigration restrictions and without a step-change in social care recruitment, we expect the over-75 to care worker ratio to hit 4.3 in 2026.
This comes at a time when:
- Our care sector is already facing a staffing crisis – there are around 90,000 unfilled vacancies, with a vacancy rate of 6.6% compared to the labour market average of 2.5%.
- 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.
- Industry experts warn that without migrant workers ‘we would struggle to provide care at all’.
Ministers must properly fund the care our families and loved ones need – and they must not lock out those we need to do the work. Government should reject short-sighted calls to prevent European social care workers from coming to the UK, and reconsider their wider approach to the low-skilled workers our country relies on.
In particular, Global Future is calling for Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make the case for continued free movement for low-skilled social care workers to save adult social care, just as his predecessor Jeremy Hunt successfully fought for foreign doctors to be exempted from the Tier 2 visa cap.
Download the full report here