Skills for Care reveals extent of social care workforce crisis

The latest Skills for data exposes the extent of the social care workforce crisis with vacancies up by 52% to 165,000, the highest rate on record.

The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report reveals the number of filled posts fell by 50,000, the first drop ever recorded.

Average vacancy rates stand at almost 11%, which is twice the national average.

Care workers will five years’ experience are paid just 7p more than a care worker with than one year’s experience.

In addition, the average care worker is paid £1 per hour less than healthcare assistants in the NHS who are new to their roles.

Four out of every five jobs in the wider economy pay more than the median pay for care workers.

Staff turnover rates remain high at 29% with around 400,000 people leaving their jobs. Turnover is highest amongst younger staff with 53% under 20 leaving within 12 months. However, two-thirds (63%) of all those leaving stay in the sector.

Highlighting the long-term challenge facing the sector, the report shows around 480,000 more posts need to be filled by 2035.

The report highlights the need to implement the ‘People at the heart of care’ white paper which was published last year and release the £500m committed for skills and learning. 

A workforce plan for social care which identifies the numbers, skills mix and innovations in delivery that are needed to meet growing demand and prioritises staff recognition, value and reward, is also required, the report states.

Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth said: “Social care is a fundamental part of all our communities, it supports people to live their lives every day and most people who work in social care find it incredibly rewarding. Social care has a bigger workforce than the NHS, construction, transport, or food and drink service industries and there are so many opportunities if people want to specialise or progress into management roles.

“We must talk more about how rewarding social care is to work in so that we attract more people, and we must make it easier for the people who love working in social care to stay by improving terms and conditions and investing in their career development.

“This report highlights the immediate and longer-term capacity issues in social care. Data shows that while we are going to need 480,000 extra people working in social care by 2035, we already have 165,000 vacancies every day and the 28% of the workforce aged 55 or over may retire in the next 10 years.

“The ‘People at the heart of care’ white paper had commitments to investing in knowledge, skills, health and wellbeing, and recruitment policies to improve social care as a long-term career choice. The implementation of the commitments in that white paper have never been more important so that we can start to build the foundations to ensure that we have the workforce that we need now and in the future.

“In short, our society needs a step change in how it values social care and the great people who provide it.”

Professor Vic Rayner OBE, chief executive of the National Care Forum, said: “Liz Truss and her new cabinet have the opportunity to start addressing the workforce crisis after decades of inaction. They should also see social care as key to their plan for growth. Skills for Care estimates that adult social care contributes £51.5 billion per annum to the economy in England in 2021/22 – we urge the government to help grow the economy by giving the adult social care workforce the much-needed funding and support it needs.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “This report illustrates the impossible challenge currently facing independent care sector providers. A growing number of people are living with increasingly complex conditions but are being supported through an insufficient government funding pot. A lack of government action has had a significant consequence on providers’ ability to recruit and retain staff, with staff being lost faster than they can be replaced.

“The writing is on the wall and immediate help is urgently required to secure the future sustainability of the sector. We are awaiting the operationalisation of the £500 million which was due to be generated by the Health and Social Care Levy for the workforce over the next three years. However, if this is to happen, it would be only the first, of what needs to be many steps in bolstering our workforce, as it would equate to just 5.7p per hour for each sector employee. A stable social care workforce is the bedrock of an effective care system and also plays a crucial role in supporting the functioning of the NHS.”

A government spokesperson said: “We’re investing in adult social care and have made £500m available to support discharge from hospital into the community and bolster the workforce this winter, on top of record funding to support our ten-year plan set out in the People at the heart of care white paper.

“Tens of thousands of extra staff have also joined up since we added care workers to the Health and Care Worker Visa and the Shortage Occupation List.

“The government is backing recruitment at home and abroad – with a £15 million international recruitment fund and a new domestic campaign launching shortly.”

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