EU care workers at risk, groups warn

Karolina Gerlich, CEO, CWC

EU care workers are at risk of losing their legal status and rights ahead of the settlement scheme deadline at the end of the month, care representative bodies have warned.

They have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson requesting him to lift the EU settlement scheme (EUSS) deadline of 30 June or offer workers an exemption to avoid criminalisation.

The groups also want an urgent review into the ability of providers to recruit and support staff into the sector, as they need access to a migrant workforce to fill the skills shortage.

Signatories to the letter, The Care Workers’ Charity (CWC), Care England, National Care Association, Scottish Care and the Institute of Health and Social Care Management, represent hundreds of providers and thousands of workers across the UK.

They argue the pandemic has ‘shone a light’ on the vital role care workers have and continue to play in supporting the NHS.

Over 12% of care workers are from the EU but ‘a substantial number’ of staff and their employers are still not fully aware of the scheme, the letter warned.

‘This lack of knowledge of the repercussions of not being part of the scheme is that many care workers are either feeling they have no choice but to leave the UK, leave the care profession or alternatively move to the NHS,’ it said. ‘For a sector that already has over 120,000 vacancies this will have a major impact on the sustainability of social care service provision across the UK.’

Adult social care employs around 1.5 million people in England. Skills for Care data showed the social care vacancy rate rose from 4.4% in 2012/13 to 7.2% in 2019/20.

Karolina Gerlich, CWC chief executive, said: ‘The Care Workers’ Charity is extremely concerned about the impact of the immigration policy on the social care workforce – there are already huge staff shortages in the sector, and the additional shortages caused directly by this policy will have a devastating impact of on the wellbeing of existing care teams, and on the quality of care provided. It is therefore urgent and necessary for the policy to be changed.’

Caitlin Boswell, project officer (EU citizens’ rights) at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: ‘EU care workers and other key workers – the very people we have relied on over the past year – are in real danger of slipping through the cracks in the scheme.

‘Significant numbers of EU care workers falling out of status will devastate the care industry in the middle of a pandemic. It’s more urgent than ever that the government acts now to lift the EUSS deadline.’