An increase of 36 per cent in Cambridgeshire’s 10,000-strong social care workforce will be needed by 2030 if it is to grow in line with the rising number of over-65s in the county, we were told at a meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Adults Committee on Thursday (19 July).
And that increase doesn’t take into account the need to replace care workers from EU countries outside Britain who currently provide care services in residents’ homes or in various adult care settings. The report on the social care labour market points out that unemployment in Cambridgeshire is low, so most residents have other job options, and the weekly income of a care worker is less than one-third of the average weekly household income, in an area of the country with comparatively high living costs.
A survey of 15 per cent of Cambridgeshire’s social care staff in the independent sector showed that 24 per cent of them come from non-UK European Economic Area countries. Many non-British EU citizens are already leaving the UK, and others may well find themselves with no options after March next year. Replacing the massive contribution they make to our community, as well as meeting the growing needs of an ageing population, will be very difficult indeed.
I’ve been told that the situation in Essex and Suffolk appears to be if anything even worse, and the older population in Norfolk is growing fast. Should we be convinced by the assurances of the committee chair that ‘the people are out there’ to fill the huge gaps looming in our adult care workforce—gaps which will suddenly be made even larger next year by Brexit?