Adult social care worker

Still more than 100,000 vacancies in social care, Skills for Care report

By Bethany Hemsley

In 2019/20 there were more than 100,000 vacancies at any one time in social care, and retention rates are still a problem, a report by Skills for Care reveals.

Using data from 8,000 organisations and 650,000 workers, the annual ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report revealed that despite a slight reduction in job vacancies, the adult social care sector in England still needs to fill 112,000 job vacancies on any given day.

Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth said: “Any reduction in the number of vacancies is welcome, but we need to attract more new recruits who have the right values to fill posts that offer long term careers where you can make a difference in people’s lives every single day.

Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care whose report reveals 100,000 vacancies
Oonagh Smyth

“Once people have discovered the personal satisfaction on offer in social care, we need to keep them by investing in pay, their professional development and creating clear career pathways. We cannot miss this opportunity so we must continue to invest in our frontline staff and dedicated leaders and managers who have made such a difference in keeping people safe and well during the pandemic.”

Other key findings:

  • The adult social care sector is growing, with the number of people working in adult social care estimated at 1.52 million, compared to 1.4 million in the NHS
  • More people are working in domiciliary care jobs (43 per cent) than residential care jobs (41 per cent)
  • Care worker pay has increased at a faster rate since the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW), with hourly rate increasing by an average of 30 pence per year (3.9 per cent) compared to 1.9 per cent per year prior to the NLW. Despite this, sales and retail assistants now, on average, earn 24p per hour more than care workers
  • Staff turnover rates have increased steadily (rates were 30.4 per cent in 2019/20), however, most of these leavers remain in the sector
  • Turnover rates were higher for staff who were: travelling more than 20km for work, under 20 years of age, on zero hour contracts, did not receive regular training or have qualifications, and managed by a registered manager who had been at their role for less than a year
  • The age distribution of adult social care workers is not representative of the economically active population. 27 per cent of adult social care workers were aged 55 and over, compared to 20 per cent in the economically active population
  • Staff identifying as BAME were more likely to be in direct care providing roles than managerial roles; registered nurses were one of the most diverse jobs roles
  • Around 84 per cent of the adult social care workforce were British, seven per cent had an EU nationality and nine per cent had a non-EU nationality
  • Prior to the pandemic, the number of EU workers continuously increased. Since March 2020, there has been a reduction, most likely a result of travel restrictions due to the pandemic
  • Using data from care homes updating ASC-WDS between March and August 2020, the occupancy rate has fallen from 87 per cent to 79 per cent in care homes with nursing, and from 87 per cent to 82 per cent in care homes without nursing. Over the same period, there was no evidence of the number of staff employed falling overall.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board commented on the report’s findings :“Despite the extraordinary endeavours of all those who work in this skilled profession, we still face a huge recruitment and retention crisis in social care, with more than 100,000 vacancies available on any given day and extremely high turnover rates. 

“Urgent action is needed for the care workforce including on pay, professionalisation, skills and training.”

Kathy Roberts, chair of the Care Provider Alliance (CPA) adds: “The CPA is calling for a long-term Social Care People Plan – similar to that being developed for the NHS People Plan. We want to see parity with our colleagues in the NHS, in terms of recognition as a skilled workforce, and in terms of reward through comparable pay and conditions.”

Read the full report here.

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