Whilst we hold our Care Workers in very high regard and are proud of the knowledge, skills and professionalism that they display, the job of a Care Worker is classed for the purposes of immigration as ‘Unskilled Work’. This is a crucial point when it comes to assessing the impact of the EU referendum on the Health & Social Care sector.
The care sector is staffed by a large number of foreign workers. Figures from the Office for National Statistics and workforce data from the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care show that in England 18.4% of care workers were born outside of the UK, this includes 150,000 working in residential care homes, and 81,000 working in adult domiciliary care and Live in care.
But it is not the current distribution of the origin of our Care Workers that matters. As the demand for our services is constantly increasing due to a number of factors including the excellent quality health care that our sector provides, as well as natural demographics where a greater proportion of our society is becoming older, it is the supply of staff to meet that demand that is the challenge.
Certainly locally we struggle to find good Care Workers, and we know that we are not alone. This is an industry-wide problem.
So what are the differing views of the two campaigns?
The Vote Leave campaign claims we will save the British taxpayer money by exiting as EU nationals will no longer be able to get free treatment on the NHS. This will also free up waiting times for GP & hospital appointments. They also say that as a nation we spend £350 Million per week on the EU and that money could be better spent on our own priorities including the NHS.
Their approach to immigration would mean the implementation of an ‘Australian style points system’ giving us the ability to specifically target recruitment from across the world to meet specific skills shortages.
MP Gisela Stuart and chairman of the Vote Leave campaign, believes that leaving the EU will actually help to solve the recruitment problem as she says: “If we vote to leave the EU on 23 June we take back control over immigration policy and can end the discrimination against people coming to live and work here from outside the European Economic Area. That will mean we can bring a permanent end to the problem care providers have had hiring nursing and other staff from outside the EU.”
The Remain campaign points out all the benefits of being in the EU, they claim along with a number of leading economic bodies that as a country we are economically better off being in Europe than out. So that actually Remaining in the EU means we will have more money to spend on the NHS than if we Leave. They also argue that being in the EU has brought key benefits for workers.
James McGrory – Britain Stronger in Europe’s chief campaign spokesman claims; “For those working in the care sector, being in the EU means better protection for workplace rights, including shared maternity & paid holiday entitlement. Leaving would be a leap in the dark that would put the care sector & the jobs it supports at risk.”
Crucially neither campaign really addresses the direct point that Care Workers, although they provide an essential service to our society are still classed as Unskilled Workers. So how could any immigration policy that is selective determine whether someone who might be suitable to work in Social Care would be allowed in. Whilst a ‘Points based system’ might well work for those with specific identifiable and quantifiable skills such as Doctors, Paramedics and Nurses, how do you assign points to someone who is compassionate and caring but has no qualifications, people who may be ideal Care Workers.
Our concern is not so much about leaving the EU, but more about closing the door to a source of workers that we as a nation so desperately need.