Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) and BASW issue joint statement about implications of Brexit

Call to recognise and mitigate the risks of Brexit at IFSW European delegates meeting

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) has replied to a series of questions posed by BASW Norther Ireland to clarify the role of EU nationals following Brexit.

In January, BASW chief executive Ruth Allen wrote to NISCC to clear up ambiguity about the status of EU nationals who are social workers working in Northern Ireland post-Brexit, specifically the impact of a ‘no deal’ exit.

NISCC confirmed EU nationals who are currently registered to practice as social workers will continue to remain registered and will be able to practise, providing they have the right to live and work in the UK.

In addition, BASW Northern Ireland has joined with the Irish Association of Social Workers to ask The Office of the Tanaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade for clarity on the implications of Brexit on cross-border social work. The full response from the minister can be found lower down this page. 

The full set of answers from NISCC are as follows:

On EU nationals who are currently registered to practise as social worker:

Q.        Can you confirm that these social workers' registration will remain valid post Brexit until their existing registration period ends, assuming they have the right to live and work in the UK?

A.        Our understanding is that providing these registrants are permitted to live and work in the UK post Brexit then they will continue to remain registered and will be able to practise.

Q.        As the registration period comes to an end, will EU nationals be able to renew their registration in the same way as a UK national would?

A.        Under our current Rules an EU national registered with the Council follows the same registration renewal process as a UK national. Providing the EU national is permitted to live and work in the UK post Brexit this process will remain the same.

On EU nationals who are in the process of registration, but whose registration is not yet complete before the 29th March 2019:

Q.        Can you confirm whether those EU nationals who have started the process of registration prior to 29th March 2019 will have their registration completed under pre­ Brexit arrangements and once registered will be considered as category 1 above?

A.        In preparation for Brexit the Department of Health have been taking forward amendments to our governing legislation - The Health and Personal Social Services Act (Northern Ireland) 2001. (the Act) The draft amendments contain Savings and Transitional provisions which state that an application for registration, renewal of registration or restoration to the register received before exit day will be subject to any provision of the 2001 Act prior to the amendments being made.

It is therefore assumed that providing the applicant is permitted to live and work in the UK post Brexit, and they meet the requirements for registration - they will be registered and able to practise in Northern Ireland.

On EU nationals who are registered to practise as social workers but post 29th March 2019 are referred to the Regulator for 'fitness to practise' issues:

Q.        Can you confirm whether EU nationals referred to the Regulator for 'fitness to practise' issues post-Brexit (and able to live and work in the UK) will be dealt with under the same processes and arrangements as UK nationals?

A.         Currently all registrants, irrespective of country of origin, are subject to the Council's Fitness to Practise Rules which are governed by Section 6 of the Act. I am not aware of any amendments to those provisions.

On EU nationals who seek to register post-Brexit:

Q.        Can you confirm the status of EU national social workers who may, or may not already be living in the UK who are qualified in the EU (including in the UK) who are seeking to register as social workers? What will be the process for them to register as social workers assuming they have leave to live and work in the UK?

A.        Providing the social worker has leave to live and work in the UK, we are assuming at this stage that the application process will require the applicant to meet the statutory requirements for registration, including holding a social work qualification which the Councll deems equivalent to the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work.

You have also asked how many EU national social workers are registered with the NISCC. In reviewing our registration data I can confirm that there are 50 EU national social workers registered.

The Office of the Tanaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

BASW Northern Ireland has joined with the Irish Association of Social Workers to ask The Office of the Tanaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade for clarity on the implications of Brexit on cross-border social work.

The full response is set out below.

Dear Ms. McGuirk & Mr. Reid,

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney T.D., has asked me to thank you for your letter of 6 December 2018 in relation to the implications of Brexit on cross-border social work and to reply to you on his behalf.

Your letter raises several important and complex issues with significant island of Ireland impacts. I can assure you that these are under careful consideration as part of Ireland’s wider all of Government Brexit preparedness. On receipt of your letter, this Department consulted with the Departments of Justice and Equality, Health and Children and Youth Affairs, the respective Ministers for which you copied into your correspondence to the Tánaiste. Their responses are incorporated below.

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland addresses many of the most acute challenges created by Brexit for the island of Ireland. The Withdrawal Agreement, of which the Protocol is an integral part, was agreed by the European Council on 25 November 2018.  It delivers on the shared objective of providing an absolute guarantee that a hard border will be avoided while making crystal clear that nothing in this Agreement will prejudice the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent as set out in the Good Friday Agreement. There are also important provisions on protecting rights in Northern Ireland and North South cooperation as well as acknowledging the continuation of the Common Travel Area. The finalised Agreement also secures transition, which is hugely important in giving certainty to citizens and businesses. The focus must now be on taking the steps necessary to see this deal ratified and implemented.

In your letter, you highlight the question of the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The Political Declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship identifies professional qualifications as an area where the EU and the UK intend to negotiate new arrangements.  In the meantime, and in view of its critical importance for those exercising professions on an all island basis including social workers, the Government is giving the matter its closest attention. Work is ongoing between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Education and Skills which has overall responsibility for the area of qualifications and with all other Departments. The Department of Health further notes that the Health and Social Care Professionals Council, CORU, established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, provides a statutory regulation system for social workers in Ireland. Qualification recognition is one element of statutory registration and there is already a legal base in the Act for the recognition of third country qualifications into which UK qualifications will fall post-Brexit.

The necessity of maintaining the current excellent police cooperation and a functioning extradition system between Ireland and Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK) has been identified as a key priority for Ireland.  In that respect, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan T.D., has requested that officials in his Department examine the implications of Brexit for extradition between the two States and to consider the options available to address the various possible outcomes of the UK’s exit from the EU.

There are significant issues ahead for both Probation services to ensure that the post-Brexit landscape does not adversely affect the working relationships and good practice that has developed over the last decade or so. Although that post Brexit landscape remains unclear at present, both Probation Services remain committed to maintaining these relationships, the continuation of the effective management of offenders cross border and information sharing between the two services to ensure safer communities for all. 

Arrangements for looked after children, while governed in the main by the framework established by the Brussels II Regulation (22201/2003) are by and large made at local level. The framework establishes the process by which permission to place a child in another State is sought/approved and the individual elements of support required for the child in care is determined by the relevant social work team and those with whom the child will reside. At this point, and in the absence of additional unilateral action from the UK as part of the wider suite of responses to the Brexit process in general, it is anticipated that the current process will be continued. Of course, the ease of cross border travel and the continued access granted by the Common Travel Area will be a key component in minimising any disruption in this regard.

The Government has been clear and consistent in its commitment to the successful completion of the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes and to a new programme post-Brexit.  This ambition is now reflected in concrete proposals from the Commission. The Withdrawal Agreement provides for the completion of the current programmes without interruption.  In December 2018, the European Commission committed to bringing forward a proposal which will set out in legal terms how the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes will continue in a no-deal scenario.  These programmes are almost fully committed and the Commission’s proposal will ensure that these vital funding streams in support of peace and reconciliation and North South cooperation will continue to reach programme beneficiaries.  The Government is also committed to the continuation of this funding into the future.  On 29 May 2018 the Commission published a proposal for a special new PEACE PLUS programme to continue and build on the work of successive PEACE and INTERREG programmes. 

While appreciating the very serious concerns you set out in regard to the future arrangements for EU citizens in the UK, these are matters for the UK Government. It is the case that frontier workers are provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement and this is once again a reason why we are focused on its ratification and implementation. 

Rights under the UK / Republic of Ireland Common Travel Area

On 8 May 2019 the UK Government and the Government of Ireland signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the Common Travel Area. It ensures the rights of Irish citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in Ireland will not change whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

The MoU commits both governments to guarantee their national laws continue to ensure British and Irish citizens have reciprocal rights in each other’s state to: live, work, have professional qualifications recognised, access healthcare, access social security, access social housing, access education and training and associated student support, and register to vote in local and national elections.

Read the full MoU concerning the Common Travel Area and associated reciprocal rights and privileges.