No Deal Brexit and its Ramifications on Social Care

Yes, that’s right, we’re discussing politics. Specifically, Brexit. The one word that makes everyone internally scream. No matter which side of the camp you sit on (we’re not here to judge), there’s literally no denying that it’s become a complete and utter shambles. I for one have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. Officially this coming Friday was the deadline for the UK to leave the European Union but now it looks like there’ll be a bit of a delay with the ominous day. Or not. Honestly at this point anything could happen. Throughout all the talks, re-negotiations, whip meetings, votes, debates and press conferences; one threat that looms over everyone’s head is the notion of leaving with no deal.

Before we get into the nitty gritty stuff, let me be clear. I don’t care what your political opinion is. (Well, I do, but for the purpose of this news piece, I will try to be the embodiment of political neutrality.) Everyone voted how they thought best, and now we all want an outcome which leaves the United Kingdom in a strong position. For some, that may be as little contact with the EU as possible. For others, it’s a ‘soft’ Brexit, where we stay interconnected to a degree. For over 5 million citizens (according to this online petition), the correct outcome is no Brexit at all. There are a lot of opinions milling around, which is complicating the process to no end; which unfortunately is pushing is closer and closer to a “no deal” exit from the European Union.

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Why We Might Need to Start Panicking

Brexit doesn’t necessarily mean the social care sector will fall apart. There will be some drastic changes yes, but if the right agreements are put in place then hopefully, we’ll find a new method that functions. However, we should all be concerned about the impact a no deal Brexit will have on social work and care in the UK.

The social care sector is fragile enough anyway, with vast recruitment and retention issues only furthered by its underfunded nature. Currently, there are around 233,000 professionals in the health and social care sector with foreign nationalities; raising the question, what happens if they suddenly lose the right to work? We already have an estimated staffing shortage of 100,000 people, so what if that suddenly trebles?

Social work and care professionals work tirelessly to support the vulnerable members of our society and assist them in making positive changes to live their best lives – irrelevant of their nationality. EU nationals form vital parts of our support structure, however if no deal is agreed upon, their ability to stay and work in the UK may be compromised or lost fully. This will leave services missing countless staff, and most importantly, the people in need will be left with far too little help.

Practitioners are burning out, left right and centre with their current caseloads and pressures; and a no deal situation could be the straw to break the camels back. If we don’t recognise a need to put adequate employment safeguards in place for the EU social work and care professionals in the UK, we’ll be putting children, adults and families in real danger.

Okay, Let’s Get Really Worried Now.

Staffing issues aren’t the only cause for concern. (This is Brexit after all, where would we be without endless reasons to worry….) Another major issue the social care sector needs to consider is what will happen about EU produced or distributed medications. Lots of useful pharmaceuticals are imported into the UK from EU countries, thanks to the trade agreements that are in place within the European Union. Once we leave, if we have not set out any future deals (as a no deal Brexit would imply), then we could suddenly be cut off from lots of suppliers. And even if we can still import particular medicines, they will suddenly be hit with vast tariffs. Vulnerable people occasionally need medications as part of a process to facilitate change, or even just to keep them alive; however, not everyone will be able to afford price changes.

Form an orderly queue for the panic bunker…

As if we weren’t facing enough funding issues in social care, now is the moment we remember that lots of front-line programmes and services across the UK receive funding from the European Union or associated entities. In December 2016, the Chancellor announced that existing guarantees would be underwritten so that there was not an immediate drop of funding; but given how quickly things are changing, can we really rely on a statement from over 2 years ago? There is a strong likelihood that care services, mental health charities, refugee centres and other such vital services will lose access to funding.

This means that not only will we be facing a social care sector with fewer professionals and changes to medications, there could also be closures of front-line services across the nation.

Whether you’re pro-Brexit or pro-Remain really shouldn’t matter in the social care sector. We all need to be anti-no deal. Otherwise our sector will cease to exist as we know it, and the vulnerable people who we commit our lives to help will be left helpless.

Contributed by Elena Jones, One Stop Social Team. 

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We want to build our social work collective on your ideas, and champion the causes that matter to you. OSS Membership is our way to bring together our community, allowing us to all speak with one voice and enact real change that matters for those on the front-line. Our mission is to support social workers across the UK, but we can’t do it without you. Social work is only worth celebrating because of the excellent practitioners who work tirelessly every day to protect the vulnerable members of our society. You are the ones who matter, and it’s your opinions and ideas that we want to drive our community. 

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