Scottish Care warns Brexit could exacerbate 'severe' workforce crisis
Brexit could exacerbate a "severe workforce crisis" in the care sector, potentially forcing homes and others services to shut, the industry has warned.
Scottish Care, the organisation that represents independent care providers, said it was already "experiencing unprecedented difficulties in terms of viability and sustainability".
With European citizens making up as much as 8% of the social care nursing workforce, it warned of the impact that leaving the European Union (EU) could have on staffing.
Scottish Care said measures must be put in place to make working in the sector a more attractive option for UK citizens, claiming "it is routinely possible to get paid more money to stack shelves in a local supermarket than it is to deliver care and support to some of our most vulnerable citizens".
The organisation warned: "Even with a significant increase, it is extremely unlikely that recruiting more UK nationals alone will be sufficient to resolve the recruitment challenge that exists within social care."
MSPs on Holyrood's Health Committee are currently considering the impact Brexit will have on the health and social care sector in Scotland
In response, Scottish Care said it was "profoundly concerned" about the impact of reducing the availability of workers from the EU.
In a submission to the committee, the organisation said: "There are a number of significant risks to health and social care provision associated with Brexit, not least a worsening of what is already a severe workforce recruitment and retention crisis to the point whereby services cease to operate."
A survey of the organisation's members early this year found 85% are already concerned about their sustainability going forward, with a quarter "extremely concerned".
Scottish Care said: "Scottish Care is profoundly concerned that the impact of reducing the availability of workers from the EEA (European Economic Area), both nurses and support workers, will have a negative effect on the delivery of social care in Scotland.
"It is our firm belief that to fail to address the extreme lack of nurses and support workers in the social care sector will severely compromise the sustainability of both social care and NHS services in the very near future."
Approximately 68,000 people are employed in care homes in Scotland while just over 50,000 work providing care to people in their own home, the organisation said.
It said that 23% of those in care homes and 24% of care at home workers were aged over 55, putting pressure on staffing as people retire.
Already 77% of care homes and 89% of organisations providing care at home have said they are having difficulties recruiting new workers.
Scottish Care added: "This is a sector which simply has no capacity to absorb any further pressures or challenge without the serious risk of widespread collapse, resulting in severe detriment to individuals who access care and support, their families, the workforce and the wider Scottish economy."