Brexit would be dire for social care. Social care is experiencing an unprecedented recruitment crisis as well as many other challenges. (1) Expelling EU nationals currently working in social care and making it even more difficult to fill post going forward could turn a crisis situation into complete turmoil. Voters should recognise that even if Britain had no material funding issues in health and social care, these services cannot be provided without people willing to serve.
The challenges we face from ageing societies are pan-European and therefore we need more Europe-wide coordination in health and social care, not less. (2)
My professional aspiration for the EU would be to see a Europe-wide criminal check system to improve safety, standardised training across adult social care and health care assistants so we can more readily recruit from other EU countries and improve competence, and clearer guidance with respect to paperwork so we can better balance front-line care with compliance.
Further, we in the UK should use the EU to adopt best practice from other EU member countries. What can the UK learn from Estonia’s incredible e-health and data sharing innovations? What can the UK learn from innovative home care training schemes in the south of France? What can the UK learn from Germany successfully turning around failing state hospitals?
A great personal benefit of being a social care professional is you learn to listen to people, identify their needs and sources of suffering or discomfort, and try your best to address them. You are forced to reach out to people with a “I am here to help” rather than close them off and say, “not my problem”. For those who feel we may have some “unwanted migration” into the UK, open migration within the EU gives us the impetus to find out why people in our near abroad are leaving their native country. What can we do to help? Their challenges and suffering become ours. We begin to share hopes and aspirations – the building blocks to a better and more peaceful world.
Conversely, if my neighbour’s house across the street is on fire and I do nothing to help put it out (by calling the fire brigade) because they live across the street, should I be surprised if tomorrow my neighbour and their family come knocking on my door the next day asking for help?
Basic human decency and responsibility needs to also inform our interactions with other countries and our membership in the EU provides a call to do this. We knew this call not too long ago – we need to relearn it.
In 1946, in the aftermath of WWII, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for the building of a “kind of United States of Europe” to “re-create the European family” as the only way to guarantee peace. (3) French statesmen Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet made Prime Minister Churchill’s aspiration a reality on May 9, 1950 with the Schuman Plan, today known as the birth of the European Union ahead of its formal founding in 1957. (4) Since 1950, Europe has gradually integrated, experiencing an unprecedented period of peace and economic prosperity. (5)
As Prime Minister Churchill predicted, wars between EU member states have been averted, and indeed, as time has passed, thanks to the European Union, Europe has become more whole, (6) which has greatly benefited the social care sector workforce in the UK. (7) This wholeness makes us the UK and we the EU as a whole better able to tackle any challenge, whether it be our ageing crisis or the migrant crisis.
We need to stand in solidarity with our European brothers and sisters with all our problems and challenges. We need to work together to address them. The UK should remain part of and engaged in the European Union.
Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of London-based home care provider Penrose Care that supports the elderly and disabled with social care needs in their own homes. Mr. Stephenson-Padron was named “The Most Outstanding Leader in the Care Sector in the UK” in the 2014 UK Housing Over 50s Housing Awards.
(1) Qwen, Jonathan. “Migrant workers needed to solve UK’s ‘crippling’ shortage of care workers, report says.” (Independent, 17 Nov 2015), available here.
(2) Kassam, Ashifa et al. “Europe needs many more babies to avert a population disaster.” (Guardian, 23 Aug 2015), available here.
(3) Winston Churchill: calling for a United
States of Europe (European Commission, Oct 2015), available here.
(4) Robert Schuman: the architect of the European integration project (European Commission, Oct 2015), available here.
(5) Dinan, Desmond. Fifty Years of European Integration: A Remarkable Achievement (Fordham International Law Journal, 2007) v31(50: pgs 1118-1142, available here.
(6) Enlargement: Extending European values and standards to more countries (European Commission, June 2015) available here.
(7) Franklin Ben and Cesira Urzi Brancati. Moved to care: The impact of migration on the adult social care workforce. (Independent Age & International Longevity Centre UK, Nov 2015), pg 4, available here.