Charity finance policy People and culture

Post-Brexit immigration rules could cause skills shortage in charities

A new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research, commissioned by Charity Finance Group, has found that 82% of EU nationals currently working in the charity sector would be ineligible to work in the UK, if the same rules that apply to non-EU nationals were applied to them. This rises to 87% in social and residential care job roles.

With unemployment at record low levels, there is a risk that charities will face a skills shortage if they are unable to access workers from the European Union.

Key findings from the report:

  • The number of EU nationals working in UK charities has more than doubled since 2000 from 14,000 to 31,000 – around 4% of the current charity workforce.
  • EU workers tend to be higher paid and more highly qualified than their UK and non-EU counterparts.
  • They are largely concentrated in social work, residential care, education and membership organisations, tending to be younger and more highly qualified than UK workers.
  • CFG’s survey of over 100 charity representatives also found that over half of charity respondents thought that it would be even more difficult to recruit for hard to fill vacancies after the end of freedom of movement.
  • Charities also need help in getting to grips with the new system, as 62% of respondents had no experience of the recruiting system for non-EU nationals.
  • The charity sector is also ill-prepared to train up UK workers due to lack of funds. More than half of charities say that they would have committed to more training in the past year – with 2/3rds of those respondents saying that funding was a key barrier.

The report recommends:

  • Swift guarantee of free movement rights for current EU nationals and a light-touch system for providing documentation.
  • The creation of a “quasi-alignment with free movement of people” system with the EU which would enable people to continue to come to the UK but giving the UK the right to introduce controls when needed and support local workers.
  • If a visa-system is introduced, then we need a Trusted Sponsor Scheme where employers (including charities) can recruit a wider array of workers than the current non-EU nationals system allows (such as carers).
  • A “skills and training strategy for the charity sector” – which could be part of the Civil Society Strategy which the government is developing.
  • Urgent reform of the Apprenticeships Levy into a wider “Skills Levy” which will apply to more employers but fund a wider range of skills.
  • If it stays, greater flexibility in the Apprenticeships Levy so that charities can give all their unspent levy funds to other charities, keeping investment in the sector.

Marley Morris, Senior Research Fellow at IPPR and author of the report said:

“So far the debate about ending freedom of movement has focused on the consequences for the private and public sectors. But the charity sector too will feel the effects of restricting EU migration, which could have a domino effect on the delivery of social care.

“The government needs a joined-up approach to immigration rules, skills policy and social care workforce planning to ensure that Brexit provides an opportunity to alleviate, not exacerbate, the continuing pressures on our care system.”

Andrew O’Brien, Director of Policy and Engagement at Charity Finance Group, said:

“As this new report highlights, charities could be particularly badly hit by Brexit if the government does not listen and focuses exclusively on the private sector. As our population ages, it is vital that charities working in social care and residential care are able to get access to the skills that they need. Immigration rules must not ignore the social challenges Britain faces.

The government also needs to ensure that charities are able to access funds to upskill their staff and train young people to take on the jobs of the future. We hope that this is something that will be considered as part of the Civil Society Strategy.”

Notes to Editors

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