Brexit and Cameron resignation – what could it mean for social care?

A majority has voted for Britain to leave the EU and the prime minister will stand down. We look at what it could all mean for social care

Pictures: Rex Features

Britain has voted to leave the European Union. In the wake of the result Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation. A new leader of the Conservative party will be elected in October. What are the potential implications for social work and social care?

  • Social care funding

The economy was a key feature of the EU referendum debate. In the wake of the Brexit vote the pound’s value plummeted. During the campaign, chancellor George Osborne said he would have to slash public spending and put up taxes in order to plug a £30bn “black hole” if the UK voted to leave. Speaking alongside his predecessor Alistair Darling, Osborne said £15bn would have to come from cuts. Spending on local government could be reduced by 5% and the ring-fenced NHS budget cut, the pair warned.

The UK would not be able to “afford the size of the public services that we have at the moment” outside the European Union and would have to “cut its cloth” accordingly, Osborne said at the time. Tory MPs in the leave campaign dismissed the warnings saying they “cannot possibly allow” cuts to services that their party promised to protect in the 2015 manifesto. Now that the country has voted, the assertions of both camps will be put to the test. More cuts to council funding would place further strain on an under-pressure social care sector.

  • Social work reforms

Cameron made reforming children’s social care, and social work, a key mission of his second term in office. He’s promised an overhaul of social work regulation, accreditation for children’s social workers and new offences that could see social workers jailed for ‘wilful neglect’. He’s also said persistently failing councils will have their children’s services taken over, as part of a “zero tolerance of state failure”.

With Cameron personally invested in this agenda, what will his resignation mean for it? The reforms are unlikely to be abandoned. Several changes are already in track and legislation, the Children and Social Work Bill, is currently going through parliament. The bill’s likely to get through because, unlike controversial changes to academies, the social work reforms do not split the Conservative party. More likely is that implementation of the reforms could be delayed as negotiations of the EU exit and a Tory leadership contest mean other government business goes on the back burner.

  • The care workforce

EU migrants fill an estimated 6% of jobs in the social care sector in England. That amounts to around 80,000 people. There are fears a Brexit will cause a “care staffing crisis” by reducing supply of workers willing to take on jobs that are often low-paid. There are also worries leaving the EU could make it easier to weaken employment rights set out by the EU, such as the Working Time Directive.

Much will depend on the terms of Britain’s exit. Norway, for example, is not an EU member but has an arrangement that keeps free movement of people with EU member states. What are the chances of Britain seeking a similar deal? All we know is Brexiteers made curbing immigration a key part of their campaign.

This morning Mike Padgham, Chair of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, which represents homecare providers, said: “Following yesterday’s vote, the legal position in the UK has not immediately changed.  Laws which stem from the European Union, including human rights law and significant parts of employment legislation, will remain in force, unless the UK Government makes alternative provision.

“The ability of the social care sector to recruit and retain an effective workforce is of particular concern.  The contribution of every care worker matters and the ability for employers to recruit non-British EU citizens as part of the social care workforce, will be particularly important for many homecare providers. It is an issue over which UKHCA will be fully engaged.”

  • Human rights protections

The European convention on human rights, enshrined in law in this country in the Human Rights Act, plays a vital part in social care. The EU and the UK have also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which guarantees equality of rights of disabled people on issues such as health, education and independent living.

How will this be impacted by the Brexit vote? Here’s a statement from Fiona McGhie, a public law expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell: “Membership of the EU offers a large degree of protection for people with disabilities because of its directives on equality. However, if that protection was removed by a vote to leave the EU, people with disabilities would still benefit from the CRPD and the ECHR.

“It is unlikely that Equality Act would be repealed should the UK leave the EU, as we would still need to comply with the other international conventions which we have ratified. However, people with disabilities would not benefit from any further directives or regulations that the EU issued on disability rights and would be reliant on domestic legislation and common law keeping pace with the advancement of the rights of people with disabilities.

“What Brexit would affect is the ability to potentially rely on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) which in particular includes many wider social and economic rights, such as the rights to fair and just working conditions, to healthcare and to have personal data protected. If disabled people wished to try and strike down UK legislation as incompatible with rights under CFR under EU law – that avenue may not be available after the vote to leave.”

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5 Responses to Brexit and Cameron resignation – what could it mean for social care?

  1. Martin Doonan June 24, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    What. will the implications be for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards brought in under ECHR will this still be the case with us leaving the EU?.

    • Miss Catherine Petit June 27, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

      My understanding of the current situation is that it was based on the state of the economy and the recession and the fears that ordinary people have over their job prospects. It doesn’t mean a dismantling of our human rights in the U.K and our common liberties, surely ?!

  2. Joe Godden June 27, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    According to Skills for Care workforce intelligence stats 2014 16% of the “direct care” social care workforce is described as “non British” and 27% of the “Professional” workforce are “Non British”. This is a sizeable and important part of the care sector. We know that recruitment is difficult across health and social care. Capping and reducing immigration would have serious consequences in terms of filling posts and to the cultural diversity of the sector.

  3. Jamiel Summers June 28, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

    Maturity starts when the drama ends. There is no major changes going to come out of leaving. Remember that poor care exists already. This is because poor management and recruitment processes exist. Lets not lay the blame at the governments front door. Saying that poorly paid workers result in abuse is not viable to me. Its the person abusings makeup that results in abuse. Owners and managers should do more robust quality checks speaking to residents. Investigating the injuries rather than listing them.

  4. Anita Singh June 28, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    What could possibly be the reason for recruiting home care workers and nurses from the EU when we have a sizeable unemployed indigenous population, who with training and support could fill a lot of these vacancies? Instead we have a diminished number of home grown nurses and carers, because it is easier and cheaper to recruit cheap labour from abroad to fill these jobs for the minimum wage and offer them poor employment conditions. After all with the 50% of youth unemployment in Greece and not much better in Spain, I would go where the jobs are. Other sectors such as the retail industry have been allowed to get away with forcing people on to zero hours contracts, ensuring that claiming unemployment benefit is extremely difficuult if not impossible.

    So exactly how did the EU lead the way in relation to employment rights for us in the health over thirty to forty years ago with the introduction of the minimum wage in the 70s, which Thatcher did away with in the 80s. Employment rights that existed well before the EU ever did?

    Perhaps the British Health and Social Care Sector needs to face up to the true cost of care, funding the training and then paying the British working classes a fair wage for a fair day’s work, rather than blaming those who voted in favour of Brexit for the mess.