The National Care Forum (NCF) is calling for urgent government intervention to tackle the deepening workforce crisis that engulfs adult social care.
The call comes after two significant reports on the social care workforce were published this morning: Skills for Care’s “The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England and Health Foundation analysis finding that 1 in 5 residential care workers in the UK were living in poverty prior to the cost-of-living crisis. Both reports throw the scale of the staffing crisis in social care into sharp relief.
Every year, Skills for Care’s “The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England” provides a comprehensive analysis of the social care workforce in England. This year’s iteration of the report evidences a deepening crisis which requires urgent action to be taken by the government:
- Skills for Care workforce estimates show a decrease in the number of filled posts in 2021/22. Overall, the decrease was around 3% (50,000 posts).
- The vacancy rate in adult social care has also risen to 10.7%, this the highest rate since records began in 2012/13.
- The number of vacancies in adult social care increased by 52% in 2021/22 by 55,000 to 165,000 vacant posts.
- This shows that the decrease in filled posts is due to recruitment and retention difficulties in the sector rather than a decrease in demand – providers have not been able to recruit and keep the staff they need. As a result, an increasing number of posts remain vacant in social care.
- The starter rate has fallen from 37.3% in 2018/19 to 30.8% in 2021/22. The turnover rate during these periods remained at a similar level (29% in 2021/22). Therefore, around the same proportion of people are leaving their roles, but there are fewer people replacing them.
- 4 out of 5 jobs in the economy (or the 80% figure) pay more than jobs in social care.
- The adult social care sector was estimated to contribute £51.5 billion per annum to the economy in England in 2021/22
The Health Foundation’s report draws attention to the impact not only on the workforce as a whole but for the people that deliver vital care day in day out. It finds that:
- Before the cost-of-living crisis hit, 1 in 5 residential care workers in the UK was living in poverty, compared to 1 in 8 of all workers.
- 20% of the residential care workforce drew on universal credit and legacy benefits from 2017 to 2020, compared to 10% of all workers.
- 13% of residential care workers’ children lived in material deprivation, where families are unable to provide children with essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables or a warm winter coat. This compared to 5% of children in all working families.
- Around 1 in 10 residential care workers experienced food insecurity, living without reliable access to enough healthy food.
Professor Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum said:
“We need the government to acknowledge the huge challenges facing the adult social care workforce. The government needs to tackle the challenges head-on and deliver a strategic workforce plan that addresses pay, terms and conditions in a meaningful way.
We are seeing the highest vacancy rate in adult social care since records began – around 1 in 10 of posts are vacant (this translates to roughly 165,000 vacancies). This is the result of chronic underfunding and a lack of workforce planning that has been years in the making.
“The Health Foundation’s findings on in-work poverty for residential staff makes for difficult reading. It cannot continue to be the case that brilliant staff, carrying out vital, life-changing work cannot afford to work in care. Care is the backbone of communities up and down the country and they are the lifeblood of its delivery. We welcome and echo the Health Foundation’s call for additional investment and reform for adult social care to address low pay.
“The government should now prioritise improving pay by bringing forward a fully-funded, strategic workforce plan for adult social care in England. This will not only benefit the people that deliver vital care but will also improve the lives of people that draw from it.
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”