Is it just me…?

Editor in Chief, Robert Chamberlain looks at a Home Office document leaked to The Guardian that contains worrying post-Brexit intentions regarding EU migration.

There is much speculation regarding the Government’s planned approach to manage EU migration post-Brexit, a matter that concerns many business sectors that rely on non-UK nationals as part of their workforce. The implications for the care sector are obvious and many parties are considering the potential impact.

According to Skills for Care’s 2016 The State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report, around 7% of the adult social care workforce are EU nationals.

Leaked paper

The Guardian reports that a leaked Home Office paper (dated August 2017) has come into its possession. The 82-page document Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the European Union makes worrying reading indeed. There are a number of alarming statements The Guardian has reported, including the intention to:

  • End the free movement of labour immediately after Brexit and introduce restrictions to deter all but highly-skilled EU workers.
  • Drive down the number of lower-skilled EU migrants – offering them residency for a maximum of two years.
  • Introduce in phases a new immigration system that ends the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants.
  • Restrict EU nationals living in the UK who want to bring a spouse from outside the EU – to do so, he or she will have to earn a minimum of £18,600 per annum.

Sector response

Of the leaked document, UKHCA’s Policy Director, Colin Angel commented, ‘Recruitment to the homecare sector is already difficult for the majority of employers, and the number of people in the UK who will need home-based support will continue to increase. The combination of a massively under-funded social care system, and a possible reduction in the numbers of available workers in the UK labour market is a perfect storm.

‘Government needs to give very serious consideration to the impact of post-Brexit migration policy, or consider identifying shortage occupations, including social care. We are extremely pessimistic that the domestic workforce will be able to provide the numbers of workers required for the future care of older and disabled people.’

Danny Mortimer, Co-Convener of the Cavendish Coalition, responded by stating, ‘EU workers with a diverse range of skills and qualifications make an invaluable contribution to the UK’s health and social care services.

‘We want to work with the Government to ensure a future immigration system in which public service value is a key factor in assessing skill levels and setting entry requirements, and to tackle the often misleading assumption that the salary paid to a migrant worker is the prime indication of the value of their work to the health and wealth of the UK.

‘We welcome, therefore, the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent commission as a crucial opportunity to develop policy rooted in the evidence base as to the country’s need.’

Alarm bells

Although this leaked paper is not a definitive representation of the Government’s final approach, it is the strongest indicator we have. We, as a sector, are justified in being concerned about its content.

The employment of overseas workers to social care is significant and yet social care job vacancies sit at around 6% nationally. Many of these employees are working for minimum wage as care staff and, therefore, seemingly would not be considered a ‘priority’ in the Government’s current thinking. Though I have no data to refer to, I think that a distinct percentage of these workers will be female and likely to have travelled to the UK with a spouse.

Under the potential new system, there would undoubtedly be a sizable drop in EU candidates, increasing recruitment difficulties in a sector that is already in crisis. Surely, thinking needs to change to recognise the contribution that an occupation makes to society, not just the salary it commands. If recruitment of UK residents was sufficient, there would be no issue. This obviously is not the case.

CMM will be holding a roundtable with leading sector experts and NHG to discuss the impact of Brexit on the workforce. 

What are your thoughts on the impact of Brexit on the workforce? CMM subscribers, sign-in to join the debate. Not a subscriber? Sign-up here.

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