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Brexit – a perfect storm for social care

Stephen Wilson, CEO and Co-Founder of recruitment platform Novacare, discusses how Brexit will add to an already critical situation within the social care sector – and why women should be better recognised for their role within the care industry.

The Office for National Statistics reports female unemployment fell this year to 3.7% the lowest since records began in 1971. Unsurprising when women account for the vast majority of the 1.75 million people who work in Social Care across the UK.

As a sector social care contributes £38.5 billion to the economy in England alone. A figure which continues to rise as the size of the population over 65 requiring support grows.  

Yet it is a sector with over 110,000 care vacancies, and a turnover of more than 390,000 (30.7%) per year. This crisis in recruiting impacts those waiting to be discharged from hospital and those at home awaiting a care package. 

So how will Brexit add to an already critical situation within social care? Stephen Wilson, left, CEO and Co-Founder of recruitment platform Novacare, discusses how Brexit will add to an already critical situation within the social care sector

The Department of Health itself estimates that there could be 28,000 fewer workers in the social care sector in England five years after leaving the EU. It also warns that this could have a knock-on effect on women’s participation in the workforce as they move out of paid employment to take on informal care roles. The result of this would be hundreds of thousands of hours’ worth of lost earnings, mainly for women.

Given over 104,000 EU nationals and 129,000 non-EU nationals work within the sector, we can’t be complaisant about the impact Brexit and a points-based immigration policy will have.

With the UK government’s announcement on 19 August that European Union (EU) “free movement” rules will end immediately if there is a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit on 31 October 2019, new immigration restrictions become more likely.

The immediate impact for employers would include:

  • Priority given to high-skilled migrants  
  • An end to free movement and preferential access for EU citizens
  • British citizens being encouraged to fill vacancies in social and health care 

The risk to the social care sector is that visas may only apply to skilled workers with a salary in excess of £30,000. The average salary for a full-time social care worker in England is £9.10 per hour, less than £19,000 per annum. Currently, the most needed group of workers would fall outside of the proposed immigration salary threshold.

All of these factors build up into the perfect storm for recruitment into the social care workforce.

  • Record low unemployment for women
  • An ageing and growing population in need of support
  • Current vacancy levels at 110,000 and growing
  • Staff turnover at unsustainable levels
  • Loss of EU citizens from the workforce
  • An immigration policy that could exclude social care workers


Gender shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to employment, however social care remains predominately delivered by women. This traditionally low paid sector deserves better recognition and reward for the work its staff do. They improve the quality of peoples’ lives day in, day out. Early morning, late at night, 365 days a year in all weather, social care staff make sure the most vulnerable in society are safe. Isn’t it time we worked together to improve their lives?

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