Who will pay for the social care implications of a no-deal Brexit?

The Yellowhammer report suggests a potential crisis in social care in a no deal Brexit. Will it be women taking up the slack?

elder care


We already knew about fresh food, petrol and medicine shortages, job losses and much more in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but this week’s publication of the Yellowhammer report also highlighted another factor which has not received so much attention: a social care crisis. By this, I don’t mean a staffing crisis. We already know about that and indeed health and social care are already feeling the pain of chronic staffing problems.

I mean the prediction that some adult social care providers could fail in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This could be compounded, according to the King’s Fund, by the possible return of thousands of often elderly British people from the continent should there be no agreed guarantees around their healthcare.

If adult social care providers fail, what happens to the adults in their care? It is at this point that it might be worth recalling a Department of Health paper from last year which predicted that women would have to leave their jobs to look after elderly relatives in the event of Brexit.

This was not based on a no-deal scenario, but on fears of staff shortages due to the number of EU citizens working in health and social care, which I can vouch for, given my partner – who is Spanish – is one of them.

Currently unemployment is running at around 3.8% and skills shortages extend across many sectors, so where are these extra staff going to come from and will they be qualified? The Department of Health paper caused a bit of a stir last year as it stated that it was likely to be unpaid women who would be taking up the strain.

It says: “If we fail to meet social care needs adequately we are likely to see a decrease in labour market participation levels, especially among women, as greater numbers undertake informal care.”

Much of the Twitter chat about the report was not about the actual predictions themselves, but about the fact that it was assumed women would be the main carers.

The ugly truth is that this is very likely to be precisely what happens. A combination of the gender pay gap, ongoing bias and its impact from the children years and social attitudes will mean that it is highly likely to be women giving up their jobs or reducing their hours once again – with all the potential outcomes for their retirement income.

The fact that few families can afford to lose a wage earner will mean increased stress heaped on women as they try to negotiate some sort of [probably low paid] part-time or homeworking job that fits around their caring responsibilities.

Of course there are progressive employers with good policies for carers, but they are still not nearly numerous enough and with austerity still very much alive in the benefits world, there is likely to be very little in the way of support for families who are affected.

Also, should so much of the onus have to fall on employers? Wasn’t that supposed to be what government was about? Isn’t caring for the most vulnerable the mark of a civilised country?

In a world of food banks and potential food and medicine shortages, that duty of care seems to be ebbing away. It’s all very well to wrap yourself in the flag and talk about defending the people, but when it comes to the crunch which people are we talking about?

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