Government investment in the health service could be aggravating
the recruitment crisis in social care, a new survey has
The research suggests that key social services staff are leaving
the profession to take up better paid and less stressful health
Mike Leadbetter, former chairperson of the Association of
Directors of Social Services human resources committee, conducted
the nationwide survey between December last year and March after
several directors raised concerns about the scale of the
Of the 25 social services departments in England which responded
to the survey, 17 said health posts paid more than equivalent
social services jobs. One authority put the differential at about
£4,500 for middle managers, while senior managers could expect
to earn £6,000 more in the health service.
Nine authorities said they were actively losing staff to health,
and one reported that it had been forced to increase salaries to
retain key staff due to their interest in higher paid health
Other authorities said staff were leaving because health-related
posts were often better funded, had more resources and involved “a
more manageable brief”. Staff also drew unfavourable comparisons
between tight local authority budgets and the millions being
ploughed into the health service.
Leadbetter, who is director of Essex social services department
and now senior vice-president of the ADSS, predicted that the issue
would be heightened by recent policy developments encouraging
ever-closer working between health and social services.
“I do not know whether it is going to get worse or better,”
Leadbetter said. “But it is going to be a very big issue and one
that senior managers need to address. There are differentials
throughout the system.”
He said that more joint working would require greater openness
about salary levels so that differences could be either justified
or rectified to prevent potential staff hostility.
“When [health and social care staff] are in the same office in
the same building doing the same work, that can be quite
significant. Unless it is addressed properly it could be the source
of some irritation.”
Leadbetter said joint-working also had implications for
ring-fenced budgets, salary flexibility, and levels of democratic
A spokesperson for public sector union Unison agreed that the
differential between health and social care was accelerating,
sometimes to the detriment of the recruitment of social care staff.
“Social care staff are often very undervalued, not only in terms of
salary, but also in public opinion and in the media,” she said.
“That’s not true of health to the same degree – there’s much
more sympathy for the role they play. And unfortunately the
resources available to social care are far less than for health.
Local authority budgets seem to be targeted for cuts while health
has been targeted for investment.”