EU carers ‘must be allowed to come to UK’ after Brexit
EU carers must be allowed to continue coming to the UK for work regardless of what happens with Brexit, a charity has said.
Age UK warned that the number of carer vacancies will only rise unless the Government takes action to continue to allow EU staff to work in the UK.
It said there are around 110,000 job vacancies in care in England already, with high numbers of staff leaving the care sector every year.
At present, around 104,000 care jobs are held by EU nationals, figures suggest.
Age UK has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying EU carers must be exempt from proposed new rules that say low-skilled EU workers should no longer have preferential access to the UK.
Last year, the Migration Advisory Committee said high-skilled workers made a positive contribution to the public finances.
It recommended a policy allowing greater access for higher-skilled migration while restricting access for lower-skilled workers, such as those earning less than £30,000.
Age UK, which said it has not yet received a reply from the Home Office, has argued that carers are low paid, not low-skilled.
It has also warned of a particular impact on live-in care. At present, many of these jobs are held by EU carers who move in and out of the country regularly to take up posts.
Regionally, Age UK said the South and London would be hit hardest by a slow down in carers from the EU.
For example, one in seven carers in London are from the EU. Other regions that would be affected include the South West, the Midlands and Manchester, it said.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “The social care workforce is already struggling but if, after a UK withdrawal, we shut the door on staff from the EU we’ll make a bad situation even worse.
“Care work is low paid, not low-skilled, so it is quite wrong that it is being caught by the new rules proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee.
“The Government should recognise this and allow EU nationals to continue to come and work as paid carers.
“The Government has granted a partial exemption from the new rules for fruit pickers and Age UK believes it should remove care workers from this proposed post-Brexit regime altogether.
“Does the Government really think that being able to eat home grown Granny Smiths is more important than ensuring that grannies and grandpas up and down the country can get the care they need?”
Kevin Bentley, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Brexit Taskforce, said 8% of social care staff are non-UK EU nationals and “therefore represents one of the sectors most vulnerable to changes in migration rules.”
He added: “With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point.
“This is something that the Government must address in its Green Paper on social care and in the forthcoming spending review.
“It is also important that the social care sector receives the same guarantees as the NHS on the future workforce to ensure that quality care can be maintained.”