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Social workers support call for independent review of Brexit health and social care impacts

The British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) has joined a UK-wide coalition of over one hundred organisations backing draft legislation that would require an independent review of Brexit’s impact on health and social care.

The European Union Withdrawal (Evaluation of Effects on Health and Social Care Sectors) Bill—introduced to the House of Commons by Scottish Nationalist Party MP, Brendan O’Hara—would compel the UK Government to evaluate the impacts of Brexit on the efficiency and effectiveness of the health and social care sector, with particular attention on workforce and funding implications.

In supporting the call for an independent assessment, BASW NI has partnered with organisations including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland and Camphill Scotland. On Tuesday 26 February 2019, these organisations will meet MPs and Peers to express their concerns and encourage them to support the private members’ bill, which to date has gained support from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

Mr O’Hara said: “After all this time, we still don’t know what direction Brexit will take but we do know the potential impact on the health and social care sectors. 

“It is absolutely essential we have an independent assessment of the impact of Brexit on this vital sector.

“This has support right across the political spectrum, we can all see the potential consequences.  We need to make sure a mechanism exists to monitor it and both manage and mitigate it to prevent those most in need, feeling the harshest effects of a hard Brexit, no deal or otherwise”.

Carolyn Ewart, BASW NI National Director said: “While Brexit presents many problems for health and social care across the UK, the social work profession in Northern Ireland faces unique difficulties. Just as frictionless travel across the Irish border is fundamental to the lives of many of our service users and their carers, cross border cooperation is central to the delivery of various key aspects of social work services. Worryingly, Brexit pays scant heed to the significance of established working practices, or to the freedom of movement enjoyed since the delivery of the Good Friday agreement.

“It is essential the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union does not impede the long-established procedures enabling social workers from Northern Ireland to practice in the Republic of Ireland, and vice-versa, or vital arrangements for Looked After Children in residential care or in kinship care on either side of the Irish border.

“These problems, which represent the tip of the iceberg for the social work profession, clearly outline the need for Mr O’Hara’s proposed legislation. BASW NI has written to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland seeking an assurance that the Government will address these difficulties in its negotiations with the EU, however, we are yet to receive a response. The Government’s lack of focus on Brexit’s implications for health and social care is deeply regrettable and I encourage all Northern Ireland MPs to support Mr O’Hara’s private members’ bill at the forthcoming second reading stage.