New workforce data shows 112,000 adult social care posts in England were unfilled during 2019-20

About 112,000 posts were unfilled in England’s adult social care workforce on any given day during 2019-20, according to a report.

Analysis of adult social care workforce data shows a slight reduction in vacancies, Skills for Care said, however it estimates the sector will need to recruit 520,000 extra jobs by 2035 to keep up with the ageing population.

It estimates that 7.3% of adult social care roles were unfilled during the last financial year – down from 7.6% and equivalent to 112,000 vacancies at any one time.

The staff turnover rate was 30.4%, with 430,000 people estimated to have left their jobs.

Of 1.65 million jobs in adult social care in England, 21% of workers identified as black, Asian, mixed, or minority ethnic (BAME), and 27% of adult social care workers were aged 55 and over.

The sector’s primary challenge is ensuring it has enough people with the right skills in the right jobs, Skills for Care said.

Its annual state of the adult social care sector and workforce report also analyses the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The percentage of days lost to sickness increased to 7.5% between March and August, compared with 2.7% before the outbreak.

Occupancy rates in care homes with nursing fell from 87% to 79%, and from 87% to 82% in care homes without nursing. But there was no evidence of staff levels falling, Skills for Care said.

And there is no evidence that the overall staff turnover rate has changed.

Skills for Care chief executive Oonagh Smyth described the vacancies reduction as welcome, but added: “Once people have discovered the personal satisfaction on offer in social care, we need to keep them by investing in pay, their professional development and creating clear career pathways.”

In responses to the report, staff pay was cited as a reason for the vacancies, while it is feared that immigration proposals will cause social care settings to struggle to recruit staff in the short term.

About 84% of the adult social care workforce were British, 7% (113,000 jobs) had an EU nationality and 9% (134,000 jobs) had a non-EU nationality, the report found.

Under the points-based system, care worker is not listed as an eligible occupation on the skilled workers’ route.

Simon Bottery, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said: “While a recession may reduce vacancies in the short term, the job requires a growing, skilled and dedicated staff to provide quality care.

“The sector will need over 500,000 more staff by 2035, so the longer-term solution must be a better paid and trained staff with real career progression.

“That in turn requires the funding and other reforms that social care has long been promised.”

Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing executive lead for the independent and health care sectors, said: “It is more pressing than ever for the Government to commit to a long-term plan for social care, including ensuring equity in pay for staff across publicly funded services, and a clear workforce strategy to ensure staffing levels in social care are safe and effective.

“The current immigration proposals will also mean social care settings will not be able to recruit much-needed staff in the short term. This will ultimately impact on patient care and community services.”

Care Minister Helen Whately said the report shows the challenge of recruiting and keeping staff, and said adult social care careers are being promoted to jobseekers.

She added: “We are supporting care providers through the pandemic with the costs of pay for staff required to self-isolate and so no care worker should lose income as a result of the requirement to only work in one location, with the £1.1 billion infection control fund.

“As we come through the pandemic I want to see ever more appreciation of the care workers we rely on to look after the most vulnerable in our society.”

The Care Quality Commission said it had been calling for more funding for years, and that it is working with the DHSC to support the sector through winter.

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