No deal, Brexit

As we move towards the Government target of 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019 for the UK to leave the EU, unless you have been away from 24-hour news on holiday, you will have not have failed to note the increasing panic that we may leave on a no deal basis. This effectively means that the UK’s trading position with the rest of the world will move from the EU negotiated standpoint to one dictated by the World Trade Organisation. I’ve noted that this may mean parmesan cheese and other luxuries may increase in price, or that they may disappear from the shops altogether for a limited time whilst lorries queue to get through Calais/ Dover and other ports.

Of course your spaghetti Bolognese may be different without its sprinkle on top, but leaving a rather more sour taste in the mouth, is the real prospect that our much-needed and valued staff who work in adult social care, may also become more difficult to come by. I’m not clear on what the WTO says about care staff, but The Guardian reports on an ONS study that shows that 220,000 social care staff in England, or 17%, are foreign nationals.

If the UK applies similar immigration restrictions on European workers, post Brexit, to those from outside the EU, an analysis by Global Future projects there will be 115,000 fewer care staff in England by 2026 than if free movement continues. The ONS 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 an ageing population.

If we look at Skills for Care’s National Minimum Dataset, we can see a detailed breakdown of the current figures. 17% across the sector feels a bit high, but there is no doubt that an additional barrier to recruitment is absolutely the last thing that the health and care sector needs. We already rely on imported labour, most heavily for Registered Nurses.

Like our food, we have become accustomed to, and delighted by, a varied palate delivering care. However, unlike cheese, much-needed carers won’t be waiting in lorries in Normandy for a ferry. Well, not legally anyway.

Adult social care needs a sensible, negotiated solution, not a tumbling out with fingers crossed.