Government must act now to keep EU care staff coming to work in the UK

Age UK has warned that the already fragile social care workforce will receive a further blow under any Brexit scenario and older people in the South could be especially badly hit.

The charity is asking the Government to put measures in place now to allow EU nationals to continue to come to the UK to work as paid care staff, no matter what happens with Brexit.

With around 110,000 care job vacancies in England, more than 3 in 10 staff leaving each year, and 104,000 care jobs and rising held by EU nationals, the Charity is calling on the Government to take action.

Age UK is arguing that care workers should not be covered by the new rule that ‘low skilled EU workers’ should no longer have preferential access to the UK labour market once the UK has withdrawn from the EU.

They have said that care workers are low paid, not low skilled. The Charity fears that care is in no fit state to withstand the systemic shock that such a move would represent.

‘Live in Care’ is growing in popularity across the UK because most older people would like to remain in their homes for as long as possible, and significant numbers of live in carers are from the EU.

Age UK has written to the Home Secretary about these concerns, urging the Government to exempt care workers from the new rules that will otherwise exclude EU nationals from working in the UK.

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. Live in care and social care in London and across the South of England seem especially threatened because EU nationals are concentrated here; there’s no way these people can be quickly or easily replaced, and social care is losing staff as it is.

“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 this 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? If Ministers do not budge on their current plans this will be the implication. They should do the right things and allow EU nationals to continue to work in the care sector.”

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Tamara Birch