Brexit is likely to exacerbate already existing problems of recruitment and retention in the social care workforce. Greater restrictions on immigration from the EU to the UK may result in severe future workforce shortfalls across health and social care.
Recent research led by Dr Rosie Read in conjunction with Professor Lee-Ann Fenge, members of the Centre for Seldom Heard Voices based at the University, explored how social care employers in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset are evaluating Brexit’s prospects for their workforce.
This is an area in which the Brexit-related challenges for social care employers are sharply crystallized. There are higher than average levels of need for social care services due to higher levels of older people on the one hand, and equally, EU/EEA citizens form a larger than average proportion of the local social care workforce.
The research project encompassed a survey of 17 social care organisations, including 8 home care and 9 residential care businesses, as well as detailed interviews with 3 home care and 2 residential care employers and/or managers. Findings confirm that social care employers are viewing Brexit through the prism of the substantial present day difficulties they are experiencing, particular with recruitment, retention and staying financially afloat.
The majority of managers and employers in the study felt that the rates at which their contracts for providing social care to local authorities were set was insufficient and unsustainable. Recruitment and retention were most acute for home care managers. Although they often employed and managed a loyal and dedicated group of core staff, home care managers recognised that the conditions of home care work (prevalence of zero-hours contracts, low pay and anti-social hours) reduced the attractiveness of this work. They worried that in a context of wider workforce shortages, they would be unable to pay their staff a sufficiently competitive wage to retain them post-Brexit.
Brexit is not only of concern to social care employers with a large EU/EEA staff base. In this study, employers and managers with a 100% UK-born workforce indicated their severe anxieties about how Brexit could impact on the staffing arrangements within their organisation. Brexit increases the urgency of the challenge of placing the social care sector on a sustainable financial footing such that it is able to meet the increasing needs of an ageing UK population.
This research has recently been published with open access in the ‘Health and Social Care in the community’ journal: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/hsc.12684