As I write this, political chaos is ensuing, Westminster is at fever pitch, why? one word – Brexit!
Yesterday the long awaited ‘deal’ was unveiled and it went down like a lead balloon, between Brexiteers and Remainers alike. We’ve already seen Ministers walk, including the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, and it seems that as we stand right this minute, no one seems to fancy the job. Funny that.
Getting a deal we all agree to, whether MP or everyday citizen, is a near on impossible task. A tiny part of me (and I mean miniscule) feels for Theresa. I think she would be caught between a rock and hard place regardless of what she brought back from Brussels, as the country remains so divided on what a good Brexit looks like.
Clearly, one of the major sticking points is the Northern Ireland border, and the complexities (and history) that go with it. That, and the customs union are the biggest arguments at the moment. But, for our sector, the key issue is surely immigration.
Over the past months, the Cavendish Coalition, of which ARC is a member, has been lobbying to protect workers’ rights post Brexit. The aim of the Coalition, following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU), is to make certain that the social and health care system can continue to attract and retain the staff it needs – domestically, from across the EU, and globally. And recently, we had the opportunity to contribute to the Health and Select Committee inquiry.
The adult social care and health sector has the largest workforce in the country. It comprises 13 percent of all jobs in England. A figure around 165,000 of the people we employ to provide social care and health are EEA nationals. This coupled with a projected increased need for social care and the challenges we already face with recruitment and retention means immigration is so critical for us.
We presented our key concerns to the committee:
- The social care and health sector absolutely needs workers from EU countries to be part of our teams. We all recognise and are disappointed that it has taken so long for workers from EU countries to be given reassurances about their future in the UK as the country prepares to leave the EU.
- A no deal will likely have a negative impact on recruitment and retention of EU workers. In the case of a no deal a transition period for migration must be urgently negotiated.
- Confidence levels remain low amongst employers and employees. The latest Cavendish Coalition quarterly EU workforce survey shows that 43 per cent of employers see the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the UK as negative for the NHS workforce.
- When employers were asked how confident they are that the EU settlement scheme will allow them to recruit new EEA staff up to 2020, only 20 per cent stated not confident however qualitative data tells us that employers do have concerns.
- In a no deal scenario, a transition period and reform of the immigration policy will be important. Any future immigration system after Brexit must use public service value used as a key assessment of skill. We need to ensure the system provides access for our essential social care workers as well as doctors and nurses.
A little scary, huh? Have a read of the full submission here. At this moment in time, it seems very possible this current draft deal could be thrown out and with the clock ticking towards March 2019, is a ‘no deal’ scenario a genuine ‘option’? I’ll let you answer that.
Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The pressure is on to pick our way through this, place your bets on what we end up with. We have real concerns about ensuring we have enough staff to offer quality care regardless, let’s hope we come to a deal that truly delivers what we need it to.