The European Union’s commitment to free movement of people looking to work is “very helpful” to care operators, according to Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, an association that represents the industry.
The adult social care sector, it is estimated, relies on EU migrants to fill 6% of its workforce, which amounts to around 80,000 people in England.
“The vision of tens of thousands of care workers packing their bags and heading home to other EU states after a British withdrawal is one that fills the hearts of many social care employers with dread,” say Denis Campbell, David Brindle and Patrick Butler in an article in today’s Guardian.
The make the case that recruiting UK citizens to fill minimum wage jobs in the unglamorous care sector is a challenge, leading to more than 5% of vacancies unfilled at any one time.
Industry employment specialist Skills for Care estimated in a 2014 study that there are more than 1.52 million people employed in the care sector, out of which 18% are economic migrants from within or outside the EU.
In conversation with a care home operator recently, Care Home Professional asked whether the owner intended to vote in or out. He was undecided, despite agreeing he was dependent on workers from overseas. “If we leave the EU, perhaps we will be free to employ more people from outside the EU than we can today,” he said.
Could they be replaced by workers from the rest of the world, the Guardian asks? Mr Green is not sure. “Given that one of the planks of the Brexit campaign is to reduce immigration, I think it highly unlikely that they would relax controls on people entering the country to be part of the care workforce,” he says.