Brexit exodus could devastate third sector

Scientists web

Many organisations are fearing an exodus of staff when Brexit arrives

24th October 2017 by Gareth Jones 2 Comments

Scotland's third sector faces a disastrous exodus of staff, skills and talent post-Brexit.

Voluntary groups face being devastated if European Union (EU) nationals feel they are not welcome in the UK and decide to leave.

One charity told TFN that as many as 40% of its staff come from the continent.

Now third sector organisations are being urged to put support in place in an attempt to retain EU nationals as staff members.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has joined forces with the British Heart Foundation and Camphill Scotland to launch a campaign dubbed #EUareValued.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 117,000 EU nationals left the UK in 2016 – the year of the referendum – a 36% increase on the previous year.

This has led to third sector organisations fearing a mass exodus of staff when Brexit arrives, prompting the campaign which is aimed at creating a support network for those affected.

Dr Neil Henery, director of Camphill Scotland, said: “We are deeply concerned about the potential impact of Brexit upon Camphill communities in Scotland.

“Camphill was founded in Aberdeen by Austrian refugees and remains a profoundly European movement. Our recent survey showed that no less than 40% of our total workforce are from other parts of the EU.

“Any future restrictions upon the future freedom of movement of EU nationals, and upon their current rights to live and work in the UK could have devastating consequences for all members of our communities.”

James Cant, director at British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, also called for the rights of EU nationals living and working in Scotland to be protected – and highlighted a need for cooperation in the scientific sphere.

He said: “The third sector is a vibrant community that reaches in to all areas of Scottish society and it’s only right that those who work to make Scotland a better place for all be provided with appropriate support and advice in these uncertain times.

“The BHF’s life saving research programme in Scotland, and across the UK, is no exception. We’d like to see further commitments about the status of EU scientists in Scotland, and the UK, which could influence our ability to attract and retain the people needed to carry out world-class research.”

Recent studies have shown that despite not legally being required to leave Scotland, many EU nationals no longer feel welcome or confident enough to stay in Scotland long term.

This is partly due to the outcome of the referendum, the rhetoric used throughout the campaign and media coverage of it. Between May and September of this year, Crimestoppers reported an 88% increase in all hate crime reports and a 40% increase in racism complaints, compared to the previous five month period.

John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, said: “We wish to encourage third sector organisations to make the effort and take the action required to offer at least some certainty and support to friends and colleagues who have come from other EU nations.

“SCVO are currently in the process of carrying out a third sector workforce survey to offer some indication as to how many EU citizens are working in Scotland’s charities and voluntary organisations.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting European colleagues in the public sector – particularly the First Minister’s recent offer to contribute funding to the cost of residency applications – and we are looking into options for similar support for the third sector.”

Further details of the #EUareValued campaign are available online.

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