Political Correspondent

SCOTLAND’S care home sector could not function without staff from outside the UK, MPs have been told.

Workers form the European Union make up a large part of the workforce of care homes and care at home providers and Brexit has already put a strain on recruitment according to providers.

The House of Commons home Affairs Committee was meeting in Glasgow to hear about immigration and the potential impact of Brexit on the social care sector.

The MPs were told the negative impact is happening now but the potential for crisis is looming large.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care said: “We can’t run our social care system without non UK nationals at the moment. This is a potential huge crisis that is not far away.”

He said the uncertainty over the status of EU nationals once Britain does leave the EU is affecting the ability to recruit staff from mainland Europe.

While there was recently three recruitment agencies working on the continent to bring staff to Scotland he said two have closed as it becomes more difficult to persuade people Scotland offers a future.

Dr Macaskill added: “There is a human cost to this uncertainty. People are less likely to commit to long term arrangements if they don’t know what the circumstance will be.”

He said the sooner the status was guaranteed for British people living in the EU and for EU nationals living and working in Scotland was guaranteed the better.

Dr Macaskill whose organisation represents 400 organisations delivering social care either in care homes or for people at home said lower wages leads to staff leaving.

He said the most common reason was to join a local council or the NHS where pay and conditions are more favourable, meaning recruitment is a continual challenge for the businesses.

He said that the funding levels for social care mean that wages were low and warned that the work done by staff in the social care sector must be valued more.

He refuted an assertion form conservative committee member Ranil Jayawardena, that migrant labour was keeping wages low and when Britain leaves the EU wages will need to rise to attract workers.

Dr Macaskill said there was no evidence to show that was the case.

He said: “The vast majority are publicly funded. The reasons wages don’t rise is because there is insufficient funding in the system.”

Mr Jayawardena said that perhaps families should take more responsibility for caring for elderly relatives.

Dr Macaskill said that families did take responsibility for care even for those who are in a care setting

He said: “ Just now 92% of care is being delivered by family members It is not an either or situation.”

The Home Affairs Committee met in Glasgow at the Royal Concert Hall to take evidence on its inquiry into developing a consensus on an effective immigration policy.