A charity has accused the government of not doing enough to ensure there won’t be a shortfall in care workers after Brexit.
Age UK has warned ministers that after Britain leaves the EU there will be fewer European workers available to fill vacancies.
The government has already agreed exemptions for the agriculture sector to allow the continued supply of farm labourers into the UK from the continent.
And Age UK is insisting similar measures are introduced to the care industry.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said: ‘The government has granted a partial exemption from the new rules for fruit pickers and Age UK believes it should remove care workers from this proposed post-Brexit regime altogether.
‘Does the government really think that being able to eat home grown Granny Smiths is more important than ensuring that grannies and grandpas up and down the country can get the care they need?’
Her comments come as fears mount that the UK will be left without enough carers for the aging population.
The charity said that the number of carer vacancies will only rise unless the government takes action to encourage more care staff to come from the EU.
Abrahams said: ‘The social care workforce is already struggling but if, after a UK withdrawal, we shut the door on staff from the EU we’ll make a bad situation even worse.’
The charity says there are around 110,000 job vacancies in England already, with high numbers of staff leaving the care sector every year.
Currently, about 104,000 care jobs are held by EU nationals, figures suggest.
Age UK has written to home secretary Sajid Javid saying EU carers must be exempt from proposed new rules that say low-skilled EU workers should no longer have preferential access to the UK.
It has also warned of a particular impact on live-in care. At present, many of these jobs are held by EU carers who move in and out of the country regularly to take up posts.