Renewed concern over post-Brexit skills gap

Housing and construction leaders have voiced fresh concern over Brexit leading to a major skills shortage.

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With barely a month to go until the government triggers the official start of talks to leave the EU, ministers were warned they need to factor in short and long-term solutions to parts of the housing sector, including construction and social care which rely on EU immigration to make shortfalls.

Last month, housing experts, including National Housing Federation report author Sir Michael Lyons, told 24housing that a sudden exit of migrant labour would impact on efforts to increase the number of new homes built.

Fresh concerns have now been raised over finding the care workers needed to support Britain’s ageing population, and how making up the loss of crucial EU regeneration money.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA chief executive, said central government was too focused on negotiations with the EU.

“I’m concerned that the Westminster government has taken its eye off the ball in terms of domestic policy,” she said. “Direct funding from the European Social Fund is £58bn a year. The ESF tends to be matched with UK funds. We’ve got an issue on what comes next.”

Sharon Allen of Skills for Care said: “There are 90,000 people working in adult social care who are EU nationals. Some smaller providers are already encouraging their staff to apply for UK citizenship. The only word we can say at the moment is ‘uncertainty.’”

MPs on the Communities and Local Government Committee are investigating the skills issue. Their first evidence hearing heard a warning from the government’s construction skills adviser of the impact of Brexit on the construction workforce.

Mark Farmer told the committee that the fall in the value of Sterling had impacted on the money being sent home by workers.

Farmer said: “I’m hearing already anecdotally that the European labour we have here is having second thoughts and that’s dangerous.”

Bob Blackman (Con), member of the CLG committee, said: “My constituency has got 8,000 Romanian citizens. Almost all of them are in the construction industry. They’re working so there’s a requirement for them. If they decide to disappear, that will have an impact.”