Government investment in the NHS could be worsening the
recruitment crisis in social care, according to new a survey.
The research suggests that key social services staff are leaving
the profession to take up better paid and less stressful health
Mike Leadbetter, director of Essex social services department
and senior vice-president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, conducted the nationwide survey between December 2000 and
March 2001 after several directors raised concerns about the scale
of the problem.
Of the 25 social services departments in England which
responded, 17 said health posts paid more than equivalent social
services jobs. One authority said that middle managers could expect
to earn £4,500 more in the NHS and senior managers £6,000
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 local authority budgets and the millions being ploughed
into the NHS.
Leadbetter 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.
He also said joint working had implications for ring-fencing
budgets, protecting staff, salary flexibility, and levels of
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
“Social care staff are often very undervalued, not only in terms
of salary, but also in public opinion and in the media,” she
“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.
Council budgets seem to be targeted for cuts while health has been
targeted for investment,” she said.