This Thursday, we will be voting either to stay in the EU or leave it and go it alone. Think carefully when making your decision as it will affect both your health care and your social care for decades to come.
At one stage or another we will all end up needing care in a hospital or in a care home. Our health is so fragile and when we are young we often take this for granted. We are so lucky in this country to have an NHS and social care system that means EVERYONE has access to care regardless of their financial situation.
This is why the NHS has become a battleground of the EU referendum.
One of the main arguments of the Vote Leave campaign is that the money we send to the EU every week could be invested in the NHS and social care. Meanwhile the Remain campaigners argue that leaving the EU would lead to a weaker economy reducing the amount of public funding for the NHS, care homes and home care.
It is worrying that social care has had such a low profile in the EU referendum but then again it is hardly surprising as older people and people with disabilities do tend to be marginalised and forgotten about.
There are 10 million disabled people in the UK getting some kind of care and support. Nearly half a million older people and people with disabilities live in care homes and around the same number are cared for in their own homes.
A fifth of the 1.5million care workers caring for these people are foreign. Many fear that if Britain leaves the EU, we will lose a lot of our foreign care workers. We already have a recruitment problem in the care sector and losing around 90,000 of our care workers (around six per cent of the workforce is estimated to be made up of EU migrants) would be terrible for care homes and home care agencies.
However a huge amount of foreign care workers are from outside the EU. In terms of the most recent migrant workers joining the social care sector, the top five countries of birth are India, Poland, the Philippines, Romania and Nigeria - only two of these are in the EU.
It is interesting that immigration has become key to this whole debate yet it is not immigration which is pushing the NHS to the brink. It is people living longer with complex, long-term health conditions such as dementia, cancer and heart disease.
The EU has brought in some valuable anti-discrimination legislation and people with disabilities have been able to go to the European Convention of Human Rights to challenge things like the bedroom tax. Leaving the EU does not mean that we will automatically leave the ECHR. We would have the option to do so but it would be hugely unpopular with the rest of Europe.
The polls seem to indicate that the two sides will be extremely close. Older people seem to be swinging more towards Vote Leave and are more likely to go and vote. Only half of people aged between18-34 are predicted to vote. Young people are more likely to vote to stay in the EU and will be the ones really feeling the effect of the outcome of the referendum in years to come.
The care and health of millions of people will be affected by the results of the referendum so think carefully and make your vote count!
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