Council warns of Herts care worker shortage after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 13:06 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 13:22 22 August 2018

There is concern about shortages of care workers in Herts after Brexit. Picture: Dean Mitchell

There is concern about shortages of care workers in Herts after Brexit. Picture: Dean Mitchell

Dean Mitchell

Care providers are worried about a shortage of Hertfordshire carers after Brexit, according to a recent council report.

Care providers are worried about a shortage of Hertfordshire carers after Brexit, according to a recent council report.

In an analysis about the impact of Brexit on the county, officials identified care work as one of the key industries at risk of not being able to replace needed workers after the UK leaves the EU.

Between 12 and 16 per cent of the county’s estimated 26,000 care workers are from Europe, whose status after Article 50 is triggered is uncertain.

“We’re having issues with recruitment across the sector,” said Sharon Davies, CEO of the Hertfordshire Care Providers Association (HPCA). “That includes care homes as well as home care workers.”

The council report titled ‘Implications of the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal from the European Union’, published earlier this summer, said: “There is significant evidence that the decision to leave the EU has impacted the county’s homecare workforce - an area which is generally hard to recruit to in any case.”

The job, which is not highly paid, usually requires specialist training, a driving licence, and of course excellent social skills.

Around one third of homecare workers in Hertfordshire are on zero-hour contracts.

Ms Davies explained that many care companies recruit directly in Eastern Europe, where prior to the Referendum the role was an attractive way for people from countries like Poland, Lithuania, and Croatia to make a new start in the UK. But with the uncertainty of residency status, the weakening pound, and the emergence of xenophobic attitudes after the Referendum, some workers are being put off.

Former care worker Iwona Pniewska, from Poland, said that she came to the UK to improve her English and to seek a better life.

She left the profession last year, saying she worked with “very nice people” but found the job very demanding.

The referendum result “disappointed” her.

“I wanted to tell people from the UK that we are working hard, and then suddenly they didn’t want us,” said Iwona.

“It’s a difficult situation from both sides.”

She and her family have considered leaving the UK, after incidents such as when a man at Woodhall shops, Welwyn Garden City, overheard her speaking Polish to her daughter.

According to Iwona, the man said: “Shut up you f---ing b---h and go back to your country.”

“I didn’t go back to the shops for five weeks after that,” said Iwona.

She has found work in her dream job of teaching, and does not want to uproot her six-year-old daughter, so they won’t be returning to Poland - but many other Eastern Europeans have decided differently.

The council report looked at the recruitment figures of one of its lead providers, Care By Us, which went into negative net foreign recruitment in September 2016.

“Aside from a few isolated blips ... they were losing more foreign workers than they were gaining,” said the report.

At any one time, the care service in Hertfordshire is short of 4,000 care workers.

The HPCA helps to address the shortage by organising a rotating “workers’ bank” between all Herts’ companies, but this isn’t ideal for vulnerable elderly people who will always prefer to have a familiar face in their home rather than someone from a rota.

In a strategy paper to address the potential recruitment crisis, HPCA has mapped out numerous ways it intends to improve the attractiveness of the job.

Proposed measures include a clearer and more marked career progression, working with the local authority to lobby for better working conditions, encouraging companies to implement staff reward scales, and giving increased support and training.

“Care workers have as much chance as other careers to move up,” said Ms Davies. “It is still an attractive option.”

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