When I look at my autistic brother, I’m scared by what he might lose because of Brexit

I write this from a train, on the way to visit my younger brother. When I get to Wales, where he lives in a care home, he will be waiting at the station with his care worker, who, having driven him there in the motability car, will have already have put in a full morning’s work. He or she (they work in shift patterns) will have helped my brother get up, washed and dressed; helped him use the toilet; made him his breakfast; given him his medication, and provided him with a “key schedule” of the day’s activities. This helps my brother, whose severe autism means routine is paramount, cope with the unpredictability of day-to-day life.

‘These workers are labelled low-skilled, but they are anything but: it takes empathy, resilience, and emotional intelligence to be a care worker’

You’ll understand, then, that the news that Brexit could mean a UK shortage of nearly 400,000 care workers by 2026 if we leave the EU without a deal on free movement has personal resonance for me. Perhaps it does for you, too: perhaps you have an elderly parent, a disabled relative, or a child who has been released from hospital, and you can’t manage on your own. So an industry reliant on the free movement of EU labour steps in, an industry already suffering from a shortage of 90,000 staff – a vacancy rate of 6.6 per cent – as a result of years of austerity.

Is this crisis what those politicians who spoke of wanting to control our borders were hoping for? As they continue to age, they might find themselves needing care, too. Will it matter to them then in which accent they are greeted and comforted?

We have an ageing population and wages for carers remain shockingly low, with many not being paid for the time spent travelling between visits. In circumstances like these, the question is: who cares? Who will care? This isn’t a looming crisis – it’s already one.

Care workers have been a part of my life

Care workers have been a part of my life since childhood. Growing up with my brother means my family has been helped by a parade of heroes and heroines over the decades. Though largely non-verbal, my brother still remembers them and will say their names, smiling.

Read more in Opinion

Source: When I look at my autistic brother, I’m scared by what he might lose because of Brexit

One thought on “When I look at my autistic brother, I’m scared by what he might lose because of Brexit

  1. This article is true in all its facets.

    Caring is a very skilled job, if it is done correctly, but in many aspects it is not done correctly as either the care agency is not up to the job or some of its workers are not and in some respects it is both. Many agencies should not be in the market and many care workers should not be employed as carers.

    If you have a good care agency and then good care workers you are OK, but if not you are not.

    The salaries for good care workers are far from satisfactory, for many are just on the National Living Wage, whereas they should be starting, at least on the Living Wage of £8.75 per hour, instead of £7.83, assuming this is outside of London where the Living Wage is £10.20,

    I believe, even the Living Wage is too low for the responsibilities undertaken by good care workers and then there is the uplift to account what is actually paid to the agency which could be double that paid to its workers.

    Supermarket checkout workers could be on £10-12 per hour, cleaners £12-15 and gardeners £20 -25. None of those occupations have the lives of people, many who are exremely vulnerable, in the hands. The whole concept of wage/salaries needs to be withdrawn and this is not even taking into account MPs salaries, Captains of Industry and others on high salary levels.

    If. on Brexit, the Government go ahead with the cap re salary levels for non-UK workers to be allowed to work in the UK then there will be a more extentive shortage of care workers as there is currently.

    While dealing with all the other areas re Brexit, then this is one of equal importance otherwise the care indusrtry will cease to exist in any effective capacity.

    Of course if good care workers were paid what they should be then the cap would not be a relevant factor.


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