The government must design a visa system that works for social care post-Brexit or risk exacerbating existing recruitment and retention problems, a report by a group of respected health thinktanks warns.
Closing the gap: key areas for action on the health and care workforce also warns that a forthcoming pay rise for NHS nurses is likely to increase the flow of workers from the care sector to the NHS. The report, by the Nuffield Trust, King’s Fund and Health Foundation, said data suggests the NHS was the most common destination for staff leaving social care, not retail as is often suggested.
Current proposals for a new immigration system after Brexit will make it difficult for workers earning less than £35,000 a year or without a skilled qualification to come to the country. The government has suggested that care workers may benefit from a transitional 12-month visa scheme.
However, the report warns this “is a much less attractive approach in social care than in other industries such as construction and agriculture”.
It said: “This is because the nature of the role requires consistency of provision and puts a premium on long-term relationships between individual care workers and people who use care services. In addition, turnover of staff in social care is already too high and could be worsened by limiting migrant workers to 12-month visas.”
The report said 18% of the current social care workforce were born outside of the UK, with 8% from other EU countries. However, there is big regional variation, with 96% of the social care workforce in the north east having British nationality, compared with just 61% in London.
The report concludes: “The only sustainable solution to social care’s workforce challenges over the next 10 years is for government to increase funding for adult social care and ensure that a significant proportion of this funding goes to improving the pay, terms and conditions for social care staff.”
Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “This report rightly highlights that a comprehensive overhaul of social care funding is needed immediately to stop staff leaving the sector due to lower pay and conditions…
“Given the number of people working in social care that come from the EU, it is likely that the sector will struggle to cope unless there is an absolute guarantee from government that our colleagues from EU countries can continue to come to work here, without disruption.”