It is no longer a surprise that I rise in sympathetic support of the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston. I am the independent chair of Medway Council’s physical disability partnership board, and with that role come connections to Kent’s physical disability forum. I have campaigned for a long time on some of the issues people with physical disabilities face and on how, through better partnership working, they can have a really productive relationship with the local authorities that serve them.
One issue that has come up in meetings over the last 12 months is shortages within the personal assistant workforce post Brexit. Many people are incredibly anxious about whether they will be able to recruit the team they need to support them in their lives. I have not seen anxiety like this on any other issue. It is not necessarily about the Bill specifically but about the impact of Brexit on this recruitment crisis.
As the hon. Lady stressed, many people simply cannot work, or indeed live anything that resembles a normal life, without their personal assistants. With his permission, I want to reference a concern of a member of that forum called Clive. Clive works full time as a senior campaigner for Citizens Advice and runs the Thanet citizens advice bureau extremely ably. He said at a recent meeting that, four years ago, before Brexit, he advertised for a new personal assistant and received 110 applications, three quarters of which were from EU nationals. Immediately after Brexit, he put out an advert, and instead of 110 applications, he received four, none of which was from an EU national. After placing his latest advert, he received only one applicant, who happened to be an EU national. He is absolutely reliant on good personal care, and he fears there will be an accidental consequence as a result of the Bill’s minimum threshold on this part of the workforce.
Many people like Clive face issues such as those the hon. Lady set out, and I hope the Minister listened to what I thought was her reasonable and sensible speech. This issue is unique, in many respects, among the wider issues around the EEA national workforce, and I hope she will speak to her colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions who have responsibility for those with disabilities and those in social care who are responsible for personal healthcare budgets. Hopefully, at some point, she will come back with the reassurances that are sought by people such as Clive, who is my constituent and a member of that forum, and by others across the country on the future employment of personal assistants.