Adult social care workforce growing but ‘significant pressure’ remains, says report

The adult social care workforce in England has begun to grow again, according to new research which found vacancies are down slightly while the number of filled roles has risen.

Despite this progress there remains “significant pressure” in the sector to find and retain staff “with the right values needed to work in care”, the head of Skills for Care said.

The organisation, which is the strategic workforce development and planning body for adult social care in England, said its research supports the case for a social care workforce plan.

There was criticism from within the sector at the omission of social care from the long-awaited recent announcement on the NHS long-term workforce plan last month.

Workforce has been cited as a major issue within the sector, with leading care body Care England saying problems with recruitment must be tackled through better pay, benefits, terms and conditions.

In its latest annual report on the size and structure of the adult social care sector and workforce in England, Skills for Care said the number of filled posts – roles with a person working in them – rose by around 1% (20,000) between April 2022 and March this year.

The previous year, the number of filled posts fell for the first time on record, by around 4% (60,000).

The figures, based on data from the organisation’s Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set combined with other sources, also showed that the vacancy rate decreased to 9.9%, or around 152,000 on any given day between April 2022 and March this year.

The previous year saw a decrease in the vacancy rate of 10.6% (around 164,000).

The total number of filled posts in adult social care over the most recent year-long period was estimated at 1.635 million, Skills for Care said.

These posts were filled by 1.52 million people which makes up 5.2% of the total workforce in England, the report added, stating that this is more than the number of people working in the NHS, schools or food and drink manufacturing.

The organisations said the figures continue to point to long-term challenges for the social care workforce, with an estimated need for posts to increase by around 445,000, to around 2.23 million by 2035, if the number of people aged 65 and over grows as expected in the years to come.

Skills for Care said around 70,000 people were recruited from abroad into direct care-providing roles after adult social care was added to the shortage occupation list last year.

It explained that while Home Office figures showed that some 58,000 received skilled worker visas after that time, others will have arrived in the UK through other routes such as family permits.

The level of international recruitment has contributed to the rate of new starters increasing from 32% to 34% in the independent sector, it said.

The turnover rate – calculated by dividing leavers by directly employed staff – in the independent sector fell from 32% to 30%, and the body said early evidence from its data analysis suggested the turnover rate for international recruits was around half that of people recruited from within the UK.

Oonagh Smyth, Skills for Care chief executive, said: “We want to thank everyone who works in social care for the work that they do supporting people to live the lives they choose every day. Social care is a very fulfilling career.

“It is encouraging that the number of filled posts has gone up and the vacancy rate has come down. Nevertheless, the data shared by employers with our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set still show significant pressure on them to find and keep people with the right values needed to work in care.

“It’s positive that we now have a workforce plan for the NHS, which recognises how health and social care are dependent on each other.

“Our data support the case for a social care workforce plan, including consideration of terms and conditions to support social care roles to be competitive in local labour markets. This will help to make sure that we have enough people with the right skills in the right places to support people who draw on care and support now, and for future generations.”

The Government was criticised for announcing earlier this year that social care workforce funding would be halved from a previously pledged £500 million.

The move was branded a betrayal by charities, unions and opposition parties, with ministers accused of broken promises.

The Government has insisted no funding for the adult social care sector had been removed or reallocated to the NHS and that up to £600 million has “not yet been allocated”, and will be targeted on measures “that will have the most impact” over the next two years.

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