POLITICS
15/04/2020 19:30 BST

Full Brexit This Year Will Prolong The Pain In Social Care

The all-consuming Brexit and coronavirus crises threaten a double whammy for the UK's Cinderella service.

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Double Whammy

Social care workers will no doubt welcome Matt Hancock’s decision to grant them a “CARE” badge to help them get priority at supermarkets alongside NHS workers.

But you wouldn’t blame them for acknowledging it through gritted teeth given social care’s status as a Cinderella service that was in deep crisis before coronavirus began ripping through UK homes.

The health and social care secretary has finally woken up to the dire situation, promising tests for residents and staff with Covid-19 symptoms without properly setting out how many are available and when they will be rolled out en masse.

But the government is at risk of giving a little with one hand and taking away a lot with another.

Its decision to instruct chief Brexit negotiator David Frost to tell the EU that the UK will not be extending the Brexit transition period beyond December 31 threatens to prolong the pain for care homes even beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

As the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) warned in January, ending free movement and low-skilled migration at the end of the year would lead to “increased pressure” on social care, a sector in which 115,000 workers (around 8%) come from the EU.

Boris Johnson could help by following through on his Downing Street promise last summer to fix the care crisis.

But so far all we’ve got is a letter from Hancock calling for opposition parties to write to him with ideas and there appears little prospect of a solution soon.

And as one all-consuming crisis follows another, they threaten even more damage to a neglected sector already on its knees.

Still, at least they’ve got a badge.

It is also worth mentioning the much broader impact of Brexit-proper on the UK’s economy, which is already on life support amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Even if there are economic benefits to Brexit, they will not be seen immediately when the UK leaves the single market on December 31 and firms have to navigate a morass of regulations and potential tariffs that simply did not exist before.

As one industry insider told me earlier: “The idea that a man-made economic hit on top of the chaos caused by Covid is helpful is beyond baffling.”

Many firms will be crossing their fingers that the prime minister is alive to the dangers and open to a classic EU fudge - a transition extension in all but name - that could soften the blow.

Quote Of The Day

“Covid-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small. It does not discriminate between nationalities, ethnicities, or ideologies. Neither do we. This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat. A dangerous enemy. When we’re divided the virus exploits the cracks between us.”

– World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw funding from the body. 

Cheat Sheet

The number of people who have died in UK hospitals after contracting coronavirus has risen by 761 in 24 hours. It brings the working total to 12,868 – an increase of 6% on yesterday’s total of 12,107.

Families losing loved ones to coronavirus will get “the right to say goodbye”, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Police in England have issued 3,203 fines against people for breaching coronavirus lockdown measures between March 27 and April 13.‌

Ministers have extended the cut-off date for its emergency wage subsidy by three weeks, amid fears the scheme left people who were changing jobs out-of-pocket.

Struggling fashion chains Oasis and Warehouse have collapsed into administration as the latest high street names to fail during the coronavirus lockdown.

What I’m Reading

Why Keir Starmer is right to push for a debate on the government’s lockdown exit strategy | New Statesman

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