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Vacancies in Social Care Increase by 52% to Their Highest Rates and the Workforce Shrinks for the First Time

New figures released by Skills for Care show that the number of vacant posts in adult social care have increased by 52% in one year – the highest rate on record.

Key findings from the annual ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report’ include:

There are 165,000 vacant posts – an increase of 52% and the highest rate on record.

The number of filled posts (posts with a person working in them) has dropped by 50,000 – the first drop in the number of social care workers ever.

Average vacancy rates across the sector are at nearly 11% which is twice the national average.

Care workers with five years’ experience are paid 7p per hour more than a care worker with less than one year’s experience.
The average care worker pay is £1 per hour less than healthcare assistants in the NHS that are new to their roles.

At the same time the demand for care has risen, highlighting that social care is facing a complex challenge with recruitment and retention which will be impacting on the lives of people who need social care.

Staff turnover rates within care roles remain high at 29% as approximately 400,000 people left their jobs. However, not everyone who leaves their job leaves social care – with around 63% of people working in the sector having been recruited from other care roles. Social care is still seeing high rates of turnover amongst the youngest staff with 52.6% of people under 20 leaving within 12 months.

In the context of the national cost of living pressures, four out of every five jobs in the wider economy pay more than the median pay for care workers.

The data demonstrates that social care’s ongoing recruitment issues present both a short-term and long-term challenge with workforce growth projections showing that employers will need to fill around 480,000 more posts by 2035.

The report highlights the need to start to implement the ‘People at the heart of care’ white paper which was published last year and to start releasing the £500m committed for the workforce in that white paper 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.

Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth says:
“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.”