Preparing for Brexit: social care

The Nuffield Trust has invited leaders from across health and social care in the UK to share what they are doing to prepare for Brexit. In the first in the series, Martin Green of Care England gives a view from social care.

Blog post

Published: 23/11/2017

Please note that views expressed in guest blogs on our website are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nuffield Trust.

Preparing for BrexitSince the European Union referendum in June last year, every politician, commentator and citizen has been thinking about the implications for their lives of this momentous decision.

But the truth is that nobody knows what the long-term implications of Brexit will be, and uncertainty and our inability to predict the future are the only things we can be absolutely certain of. In many ways, this creates a great challenge for the care sector, and we are already seeing some implications of Brexit.

There’s less money to be made for EU staff

First, it is having an impact on our ability to both recruit and retain our EU staff. Many commentators have said this is about people not feeling welcome within this country, but in my view it has far more to do with the slide in the value of the pound.

At one time it was very advantageous for European citizens to work in the UK because the exchange rate between the pound and the euro was such that it really did make financial sense to work here. Now that there is almost parity between the two currencies, it is easier for workers to find employment on the mainland of Europe, enabling them to have much easier access to their friends and families at home.

Look for opportunities in difficult times

One of the things that businesses hate is uncertainty, and it is starting to have an impact on some organisations who are putting their development plans on hold. In some sectors, such as financial services, they are considering moving their headquarters from the UK to other European countries.

What I think care services need to do (and what they have always been good at) is manage that uncertainty and look for the opportunities in a difficult situation.

Due to the challenges many care services have faced trying to work with local authorities, CCGs and the Government, you could argue that the care sector is very good at managing uncertainty, and navigating the best possible path through challenging times.

Care providers are no strangers to financial unpredictability, and in many areas they are not told what the fee rates for their services will be until well into the year. There are even authorities at the moment who have not told their provider community what the fee rate for 2017/18 will be, and we are now eight months into the financial year.

Ignore other priorities at your peril

The media is obsessed with Brexit, and the Government is also focusing much of its attention on this massive challenge.

While this is understandable, I do think the Government needs to remember – whether we have a hard or soft Brexit and whatever we manage to negotiate – there are a range of other priorities that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. If the Government focuses on one thing to the detriment of all else, it might precipitate a catastrophic future for our citizens and for our economy.

I recently read about an Eastern Airways airliner that crashed into the Florida Everglades in 1972. The subsequent inquiry identified that the pilots had been so focused on a malfunctioning light on the dashboard that they did not realise their plane was losing height and it eventually crashed, killing 101 people. If the Government does not look at other issues such as health and social care, employment, infrastructure, security and defence and all the other important aspects of national life, we might find that the economy crashes, whichever type of Brexit we negotiate.

Professor Martin Green is Chief Executive at Care England.

Please note that views expressed in guest blogs on our website are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nuffield Trust.

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