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Workforce report shows early signs of easing pressure

Adult social care workforce pressures are showing signs of easing, the latest dataset from Skills for Care shows.

Its annual Size and Structure of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report found that the number of filled posts – roles with a person working in them – increased by around 1 per cent (20,000) between April 2022 and March 2023. The previous year, the number of filled posts fell for the first time on record, by around 4 per cent (60,000).

The new figures show that, at the same time, the vacancy rate decreased to 9.9 per cent, or around 152,000 on any given day, compared with 10.6 per cent (around 164,000) the previous year.

The definition of vacant posts includes posts vacant in the short term due to recent or anticipated staff turnover, posts created by employers who want to expand their businesses, as well as more persistent vacancies where the offer to potential staff is not sufficiently competitive in the local labour market.  

International recruitment has contributed to the rate of new starters increasing 2 per cent to 34 per cent in the independent sector. Home Office figures show that around 58,000 people received Skilled Worker visas after adult social care was added to the Shortage Occupation List in February 2022. Family permits have also provided human resources.

In response, Unison has written to care minister Helen Whately warning of a ‘significant rise’ in reports of unacceptable treatment by unscrupulous employers towards workers from overseas. The workers’ union claims migrant staff are being forced to pay back thousands of pounds in fees, housed in sub-standard accommodation and even forced to share beds with colleagues.

Skills for Care data also shows that staff turnover in the independent sector has decreased 2 per cent to 30 per cent. Early evidence from ASC-WDS suggests the turnover rate for international recruits was around half that of people recruited from within the UK.

The total number of posts in adult social care in England, including filled posts and staff vacancies, was 1.79 million in 2022-3 – an increase of 0.5 per cent from the previous year. Filled posts are estimated at 1.635 million. These posts were filled by 1.52m people which is 5.2 per cent of the total workforce in England, and more than the number of people working in the NHS, schools or food and drink manufacturing.

For independent sector care homes, the number of filled posts was up by 3 per cent (16,000).  

The report warns that to keep in step with population demographics, the number of posts in adult social care should increase to around 2.23 million by 2035.

Karolina Gerlich, CEO of The Care Workers’ Charity, said: “We must keep fighting for the care system we want to see. Social care reform needs to recognise care workers as highly skilled professionals.  A plan that addresses the difficulties faced by the social care sector, also needs to address pay.”

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