There has been intense speculation about the future residence rights of the estimated three million EU migrants already living in Britain. 

However, to date, not enough attention has been given to what Brexit means for the country’s social care workforce.

This report reviews future workforce shortages in adult social care in England to take account of the EU referendum result. 

Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of European migrants in the social care workforce. In the first part of 2016 alone, over 80% of all migrant care workers who moved to England to take on a social care role were from Europe. Any restrictions to the migration of European citizens would likely reduce the overall number of workers in the social care sector, making it even harder to recruit and retain the necessary numbers of staff.

Download the full report

Download the Executive Summary


To model the impact of post-Brexit immigration changes on the social care workforce, we looked at a number of potential scenarios:

  • Around 1 in 20 (6%) of England’s growing social care workforce are EEA migrants, equating to around 84,000 people. Further, more than 90% of those EEA migrants (78,000) do not have British citizenship – meaning they could be at risk of changes to their immigration status following Brexit.

  • In a zero net migration scenario, the social care workforce gap could reach just above 1.1 million workers by 2037. This means that there would be 13.5 older people for every care worker – compared to a ratio of seven for every care worker today. This is a workforce gap which, by 2037, is around 70,000 workers larger than our worst predictions in our analysis pre-EU referendum.

  • In a (more likely) low-migration scenario, where the sector remains as attractive as it is today, but the government delivers on its commitment to reduce levels of net migration, there will be a social care workforce gap of more than 750,000 people by 2037.

  • Even in a scenario where there are high levels of migration and the care sector becomes more attractive, the social care gap will be as big as 350,000 people by 2037.The implications of a social care workforce gap of between 350,000 and 1.1 million workers for older and disabled people are clear – far fewer will be able to access the care they need to live meaningful, independent lives.


  •  An increase in the attractiveness of the social care sector to British-born workers
  • Immigration policy to reflect the needs of the older and disabled people who rely on social care for their independence 
  • A fundamental look at the way care is funded and delivered in England.