Disabled campaigners are to call on government advisers and ministers to make it easier for care workers from outside the UK to work in this country as personal assistants (PAs), and so help ease the “social care ticking time bomb”.
They will warn in a letter of a “devastating shortage of skilled, qualified care workers” if the government fails to act.
The letter, coordinated by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), will not be sent until next month, but has already drawn nearly 200 signatories from across the disabled people’s movement.
It will be sent to members of the Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on occupations where there is a shortage of workers, as well as to ministers, MPs and peers.
The letter points out that the government’s new post-Brexit immigration policy appears to offer disabled people no way to recruit PAs and care workers from other parts of the world to work in the UK.
But they also point to the need for extensions to the Frontier Worker scheme, so it includes new care workers from European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and not just those who have worked in the UK by 31 December 2020.
And they want this scheme – which allows workers to secure jobs in the UK while living mostly in their home nations – extended to workers from outside the EU and EEA.
They say these steps are “essential” to prevent a “social care ticking time bomb, which will result in a devastating shortage of skilled, qualified care workers, increasing pressure on our already crumbling social care system and putting disabled people’s lives at risk as well as increasing both pressure and avoidable expense on our NHS”.
They say government policy appears to be that while EU and EEA PAs and care workers who were working in the UK by 31 December 2020 have options that will allow them to carry on working in the UK, there are currently no such options for those who were not.
They say in the letter: “Figures show there is already a dramatic shortage of skilled care workers and PAs in the UK, and these changes will exacerbate the overwhelming pressures our care system already faces.”
Independent Living Alternatives, the PA agency founded by independent living pioneer David Morris, says that 60 per cent of its live-in staff are from the EU and only 28 per cent from the UK, says the letter.
The Office for National Statistics said in 2019 that vacancy rates in adult social care in England had risen to eight per cent in 2017-2018 – or 110,000 vacancies – up from 5.5 per cent in 2012-13, compared with 2.7 per cent in the 2017 calendar year across all industries.
The DPAC letter adds: “The provision of quality care is important to the mental and physical well being of a vast swathe of the UK’s disabled and older people – who are often denied rights and opportunities many take for granted.”
It says that most care workers from outside the UK come here to work for a fixed period of time and then return home, and contribute through taxation and buying goods and services, while the loss of such workers “will exacerbate the overwhelming pressures our care system already faces”.
Organisations backing the DPAC letter include the European Network on Independent Living, Inclusion Scotland, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, WOWcampaign, Reasonable Access, Disability Politics UK, Inclusion London, Harrow Association of Disabled People and Disability Sheffield.
DPAC will continue to collect signatures for the letter until 7 February.
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