The paid adult social care workforce could swell to more than 2.5m by 2025, Skills for Care predicted in a comprehensive report on the sector last week.
Its State of the Adult Social Care Workforce in England 2008 study said there were 1.39m jobs in the sector, above previous estimates of 922,000, and it predicted this needs to rise by nearly 80% by 2025, to cope with increased demand and greater personalisation of care.
The revised figure is the result of the national minimum data set for social care, the Skills for Care-led project to accurately measure the social care workforce, although some people have more than one job. Skills for Care put the number of people employed as being between 1.1m and 1.15m.
The report said that under a “maximising choice” scenario, where all service users who wanted direct payments received them and others received highly personalised care, the size of the workforce would rise from 1.39m to over 2.5m.
This would include a nine-fold increase in the number of personal assistants employed by direct payment users.
Andrea Rowe (pictured), Skills for Care’s chief executive, said that issues such as low pay and poor access to training were common to all in the sector and would not particularly hamper the future expansion of personal assistants.
“One person’s domiciliary care worker is another service user’s personal assistant,” she said.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, agreed issues over pay and training were experienced by all types of social care workers but said there was a particular issue with personal assistants.
“They tend to be the lowest of the low paid in the social care workforce and they don’t get the benefits of training,” she said.
Bott added there needed to be greater engagement with employers of personal assistants, adding: “It’s more effort to reach individual employers [of personal assistants] and has to be done with sensitivity.”
However, Nick Johnson, chief executive of the Social Care Association, said the scenarios outlined in the Skills for Care report of huge workforce increases were based on “misleading” statistics about the numbers of workers involved in the social care sector.
“One of the weaknesses of these statistics is that they don’t talk about the numbers of people in real time,” he said. “A large number of people may well have assistance to go shopping for two hours a week. So they may have an individual budget but they won’t have enough to employ a person.”
He also said that people may be allowed to spend individual budgets or direct payments on some of the estimated six million carers in the country.
The report revealed in 2006-7 councils underspent their main social care training grants – the human resources development strategy grant and the national training strategy grant by £9.7m and £26m respectively. The NTS was worth around £108m and the HRDS about £50m. According to Rowe, the fact that the grants were not ring-fenced meant they were being spent on other services.
Last year, Skills for Care caused controversy among councils by suggesting it should take control of that proportion of the two grants that was designed to be spent in the independent sector, amid evidence councils were not passing on the money.
Poll exposes plight of debt-ridden social workers