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Brexit uncertainty 'will force Scots care homes to close'

Difficulties retaining and recruiting staff already hurting the sector, leaders warn.

By STV News

Published 18 Jan 2019.

Care providers are warning that services may have to close in Scotland because of uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Issues over retaining and recruiting staff are already having an impact, they told STV News.

It's particularly damaging rural and remote areas, according to those working in the sector.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29, however MPs are yet to agree a withdrawal deal.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents independent providers, said his members were already losing key staff.

He said: "Brexit is not going to happen on March 29, Brexit is already happening across Scotland today.

"There are many individuals who are thinking about whether or not Scotland is a place where they can see their future.

"Unfortunately there are some people already making a decision to leave Scotland and that is having an immediate effect on the sustainability of some of our most fragile services.

"If you are a small care home in a remote part of Scotland and your two nurses come from the European Economic Area and are now faced with uncertainty, you cannot afford to lose those two members of staff because it means that care home will shut.

"We are now faced with the very real prospect that care homes and homecare services, particularly in remote and rural parts of Scotland, will no longer be able to operate because of the political uncertainty caused by this Brexit debate."

Care organisation Camphill Scotland relies on workers from other EU countries and fears restrictions on freedom of movement could have far-reaching consequences.

It has 11 communities across Scotland providing care for more than 500 people with learning difficulties and other support needs.

Of the 165 people working as long-term volunteers, a total of 88 are from other EU countries.

One of them is Terhi Geider, from Finland, who has worked at the Newton Dee Camphill Community in Aberdeen for more than 30 years.

He said: "I must say that I have found it appalling that they made us Europeans into political pawns.

"I found that was really totally unnecessary because I have contributed over 30 years working with people with special needs and learning disabilities.

"Quite frankly I would really have wanted some appreciation rather than made a second-class person.

"I had legal rights to be here. I've enjoyed those rights, I've done my contributions.

"It is not a good way to go about things to later on to change the goalposts and make us even pay for it."

Ulrike Mall, from Germany, is also a long-term worker at Newton Dee.

She said: "It's been really unsettling. You do start thinking, should I make other plans?

"I mean the off and on has been quite stressful for our residents that we live and work with because they don't really know what the future holds, so it's a scary time.

"I am really, really worried about the future for Camphill, for Newton Dee specifically.

"Once in a while I do catch myself making back-up plans, but I am still hopeful maybe a solution can be found."

Camphill Scotland director Neil Henery said the number of job applications from EU workers had fallen significantly.

He said: "We thoroughly and completely need workers from EU countries to provide the kind of communities that we want to provide

"We are very worried that the capacity for people to come is not disrupted by all the tremendous uncertainty and negativity that is currently around with Brexit.

"One of our communities yesterday that I spoke to said that they are looking for 20 new short-term co-workers to come in September.

"They could usually rely on having at least 15 applications from Germany and they have none so far. I'm told that is very unusual for this time of the year."