An estimated half a million EU citizens are working in “low-skilled” jobs in the UK with 82,000 of these working in the care services, a report by leading academics has found. The report by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said that once freedom of movement ends employers could struggle to find people to work in this area of employment.
This will particularly effect disabled people who currently employ a high percentage of EU workers as personal assistants (PAs) and in other support roles.
Andrew, a self-employed disabled access consultant, told me that his experience of employing PAs from countries other than the UK had been a positive one.
“I have employed two young people from Lithuania for the past five years. They are punctual, hard-working and extremely caring of my needs without being patronising. This is in direct contrast to people I have employed from the UK, who, on the whole, have found it difficult to be ‘employed’ by me, a disabled person.”
He added: “My two PAs are now talking of returning home which will leave me in a worrying situation, especially with regard to my business.”
In talking with other disabled people, I found this common theme running through their own experiences.
Leslie, a disabled disability equality trainer, told me:
“In my experience, European support workers have a more positive attitude and a better understanding of their role as a PA for a disabled person. Several British people I have employed in the past have had a tendency to know what’s best for me, often in direct conflict with my spoken wishes! I’m not sure what will happen to me or my business if EU workers are no longer allowed to work in the UK.”
Perhaps it’s my suspicious nature but I wonder if this proposed embargo on suitable PA support for disabled people is part of a larger plan by this Tory government; there are already well documented problems surrounding benefit support and proposed changes to equality legislation. We seem to be heading back to the times when we had no independent support, were rarely seen on the streets, locked away in institutions with no real educational or employment opportunities.
In conclusion, here’s an excerpt from a recent survey undertaken by the Kings Fund that sums up our reliance on EU migrant workers.
‘The policy of freedom of movement and mutual recognition of professional qualifications within the European Union means that many health and social care professionals currently working in the United Kingdom have come from other EU countries. This includes an estimated 115,000 (around 10 per cent) of the 1.3 million workers in England’s adult social care sector. The proportion of EU workers in both the NHS and the social care sector has grown over time, suggesting that both sectors have become increasingly reliant on EU migrants.’
And here is an audio transcription for easier access to the Blog (voice of Helen Lupton aka Mrs Crippen)