The latest report from Skills for Care reveals the significant impact the pandemic has had on both the short and long-term challenges faced by the workforce.
The annual ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report – based on data provided by sector employers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) – reveals that on average, 6.8% of roles in adult social care were vacant in 2020/21, which is equivalent to 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day. The vacancy rate in adult social care has been persistently high at above 6% for the previous six years.
The turnover rates across the sector remain high, at 28.5% in 2020/21. This figure had decreased during the pandemic, but since March 2021 many employers report that retention is now more difficult than before the pandemic. The rate was higher for registered nurses at 38.2%, much higher than for their counterparts in the NHS (8.8%).
In recent months adult social care employers have been raising the significant recruitment challenges they are facing.
- Since May 2021, vacancy rates have steadily risen as the wider economy has opened back up. As of August 2021, vacancy rates are now back above their pre-pandemic levels.
- Since March 2021, we have seen a decrease in jobs (filled posts) of around -1.8%. This is the first time on record that the number of jobs (filled posts) has fallen. At the same time vacancy rates are increasing. This indicates that providers are struggling with recruitment and retention, rather than a decrease in demand, which we know from our market insights. This is even more pertinent in registered nurse jobs, which have fallen by 5% to 34,000 in the last year.
Vacancies offer people opportunities to work in rewarding and challenging roles supporting people in their communities. As we develop and implement reform for our workforce, we need to make a strong case that these jobs offer highly-skilled careers where you can progress to leadership positions.
We need to listen to people who draw on care and support services to understand what they want. People want to be supported by people who have the skills to support them, and people who are trained and developed who are then less likely to leave their roles.
The steady shift from care homes to care at home services continues and has been accelerated by the pandemic.
In 2020/21 the number of adult social care jobs increased by 2.8% (45,000 jobs). The vast majority of this increase was in domiciliary care services which increased by 7.4% (40,000 jobs).
The total number of direct payment recipients employing staff has remained stable (at around 70,000, and 130,000 jobs) since 2014/15.
Occupancy rates of care homes also fell during the pandemic from 86% pre-covid to 77% in March 2021.
People who draw on care services say that that they want to live in a place they call home, and we need to ensure reform recognises this desire enabling people to draw on care in the way that works best for them.
The National Living Wage (NLW) has contributed to a 6% increase in the median nominal care worker hourly rate from March 2020 to March 2021. However, employers have found it more difficult to maintain differentials for more experienced workers, care workers with five years’ (or more) experience in the sector are paid just 6 pence (1%) more per hour than care workers with less than one year of experience.
Social care workers from a Black, Asian or minority ethnicity make up 21% of the total workforce with 82% female and 27% aged 55 and over. We must reward them and embrace the opportunity to make social care an employer for all.
The report shows social care is a growing market currently contributing £50.3 billion to the English economy. The efforts of the 1.54m people who worked tirelessly throughout lockdown need to be recognised and properly rewarded.
We are aware that workforce is a priority for the upcoming white paper and we are committed to working with Government and stakeholders across the sector to make a shared vision for a workforce which enables people to live the lives they want, where they want.
Responding to the report report Danny Mortimer, co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition and chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said:
“This is a stark reminder of the ongoing and very difficult workforce issues that exist social care. Social care desperately needs long term investment across the sector to improve services, boost wages and help the recruitment and retention of these important roles in our communities.
“All of us working across social care and health are clear that the present immigration system has failed to help social care and needs urgent reform. We are also clear that the government must act decisively to ensure a long term strategy for investment in the social care workforce, that makes working in social care a more attractive and valued career in the current challenging labour market.”