As we witness the ongoing debate about Brexit across the UK, and what this may mean for the UK economy and our future way of life, it is worth reading Public Health Wales’s recently published report Public Health Implications of Brexit in Wales.
The report sets out potential negative and positive consequences of leaving the EU.
One area of the report that we are particularly interested in, is the potential negative impact on the health and social care workforce, in terms of recruitment and retention.
One of our strategic priorities is to ensure we have sufficient numbers of skilled social care workers who are able to deliver consistent quality care and support across Wales.
We know that demand for social care is likely to rise as the population ages and people live for longer with a range of health conditions and disabilities.
We also know that poverty has a direct impact on family life, with child protection referrals tending to increase when families are under increased economic pressure.
It is important, therefore, that we do all we can to grow and develop the social care workforce.
We are working with the Welsh Government and other partners to better understand the impact of Brexit.
Social care professionals support individuals to maintain their independence, remain active and engaged within their communities, and protect children and adults, who may be at risk of harm, due to neglect or abuse.
The NHS relies on consistent social care being available to help people with long-term health conditions stay well in their own homes, as well as supporting them to return home from hospital as quickly as possible.
There are different recruitment and retention challenges for different social care roles and in different parts of Wales. This may become more challenging if EU workers are not able or choose not to stay and work in Wales.
While the numbers of front line EU social care workers are not accurately known because they are employed by a large number of independent providers and are not yet registered, it is estimated that three to four per cent of the workforce may be from EU countries.
The NHS employs a higher level of EU nationals and, if there is a loss of the support workforce in Wales, it is likely that many of those NHS vacancies will be taken up by social care workers, as terms and conditions in the NHS are currently more favourable.
Health and social care organisations are developing joint recruitment plans to reduce the impact of Brexit, and Social Care Wales is working with regional bodies to lead a national attraction, recruitment and retention campaign.
We are targeting young people, as well as people previously employed in retail and other sectors who are facing redundancy. We are hoping these activities will reduce the risk of further workforce challenges to ensure those who need care and support can rely on a consistent response across Wales.
To find out how the Welsh Government is preparing Wales for a possible no-deal Brexit, visit its new website.