Last reviewed 31 January 2019

Age UK has called on the Government to allow EU care workers to have the same rights as fruit pickers, so that they can continue to come to the UK to work after Brexit.

The Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that more high-skilled migration should be allowed while access for low-skilled workers, such as those earning less than £30,000, is restricted.

However, Age UK has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to inform him that care workers are low paid, many earning far less than £30,000, but should not be classed as low skilled. Recent Skills for Care figures have shown there are around 110,000 job vacancies in care in England and more than 3 in 10 staff leave their job each year. Meanwhile, approximately 104,000 care jobs are filled by EU nationals.

Care companies are now suggesting that some EU nationals are already returning home because they no longer feel welcome. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between July and September 2018 there were 132,000 fewer EU citizens working in the UK than the year before.

The Home Office’s response stated: “As the Home Secretary has said, EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our society and we want them to stay. The social care sector is vital to the UK and our future immigration system will ensure that we have access to the skills and talents we need after the UK leaves the EU.

“As part of this, we are considering whether a lower salary threshold should apply for some roles in shortage. This is already in place for nurses, paramedics and some teaching and social care roles in short supply.

“The new skills-based immigration system will be implemented from 2021 following an extensive 12-month programme of engagement with businesses and stakeholders, including the social care sector across the UK and the EU and international partners.”

But Age UK Charity Director Caroline Abrahams said: “The Government has granted a partial exemption from the new rules for fruit pickers and Age UK believes it should remove care workers from this proposed post-Brexit regime altogether.

“Does the Government really think that being able to eat home grown Granny Smiths is more important than ensuring that Grannies and Grandpas up and down the country can get the care they need?

“If Ministers do not budge on their current plans this will be the implication. They should do the right thing and allow EU nationals to continue to work in the care sector. The social care workforce is already struggling but if after a UK withdrawal we shut the door on staff from the EU we’ll make a bad situation even worse.”