Thursday, 20 February 2020

Brexit Britain is no country for old men in care homes and in need of care workers

With Britain leaving the European Union the Johnson Government plans to block the entry of low paid workers from the EU into Britain. Care workers can earn as little as £16,000, according to the National Association of Care and Support Workers (NACAS), well short of the £26,500 threshold under the immigration system the Government plans to introduce next year.

It is mostly, but not exclusively, the old men and women spending their last days in care homes who are the weakest and most vulnerable members of British society, who will suffer the most as a result of this Government-forced reduction in immigration numbers. It is doing this to satisfy the wishes of those members of the electorate who voted for it in the General Election and who saw this a a major part of 'getting Brexit done'.

Karolina Gerlich, the Chief Executive of  the National Association of Care & Support Workers (NACAS), said shutting out workers at this time was irresponsible : “There is going to be a human cost to this, people will die because people who need care workers won’t be able to get them and there won’t be enough of us to deliver that care.” At the moment the care sector employs around 1.6 million people and has a shortage of 110,000 staff, according to a 'Skills for Care' report published in October. Given the fact that around 8% of staff in the sector come from the EU and the proportion is higher in cities, the shortage is bound to increase.

Nadra Ahmed, the Executive Chair of the National Care Association, noted that care workers had been classed as 'low skilled' along with fruit pickers but the latter would get special treatment to keep supermarket shelves stocked. She said : “I feel really saddened that fruit workers come above that group. We are not low-skilled workers. We work in palliative care, with people with dementia and disabilities. In hospitals, nurses who are highly trained administer medicine. In care homes, trained care workers do that. How can you say that is unskilled? The NHS has outsourced social care and end-of-life care for years. When I started in 1981 you would not have taken anybody who was incontinent, doubly incontinent or with dementia. Now, this is what the care sector does. We are really a mini-hospital scenario.”

The Government has adopted recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee on allocating points to potential immigrants based on their skills, salary and English-language proficiency. Karolina said the the Committee’s report was unhelpful and showed a lack of understanding about care workers’ skills. “In terms of skills, we have three types: organisational skills; dealing with stakeholders; clinical skills; and soft skills of empathy and patience. They talked about getting British employers to automate. Well you can’t get a robot to do this.”

The Migration Advisory Committee Report that informed the Government’s immigration policy noted that the social care sector was 'struggling to recruit and retain workers' but cited a 'failure to offer competitive terms'. It said its view was that low pay was not an 'immigration issue' despite argument for special treatment for a sector that was perceived as 'lower paid but higher value'. In other words, the fact that care workers are paid low wages is not our problem.

Polly Toynbee's article in the Guardian today :

Brexit Britain : hard, bureaucratic, unloving and lacking compassion towards the old and weak

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