Voluntary sector social care workforce booms

More than half of the voluntary sector workforce is employed in social work related posts, according to the UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac 2007.

Since 1996, the total workforce has grown by a quarter to 611,000 with social work posts increasing from 202,000 to 332,000 (54% of the total).

One in 50 of the UK workforce now works in the voluntary sector – and about one in 100 work in voluntary sector social work related jobs. In terms of full-time equivalent jobs the sector has about 486,000 posts.

A third of all UK voluntary sector posts are in London and the South east, owing to the greater number of national and international organisations located there in these areas, says the study.

Breakdown by UK country of voluntary sector employees:

• England has 518,000

• Scotland 62,000

• Wales 17,000

• Northern Ireland 13,000

Between 1996 and 2005, the sector’s workforce increased by 26% with Scotland increasing by 55%.

The report finds that 20% of the sector works in “personal service occupations”, with “associate professional and technical” and “managers and senior officials” being the other two main categories of occupations. These occupations also include many social work related jobs. The report says: “More than four out of 10 voluntary sector workers (43%) work in ‘associate professional and technical’ or ‘managerial and senior official’ occupations. These are jobs such as health professionals, in child care and as social welfare professionals, for example, youth workers.”

Social work-related roles

The study divides social work posts into those with accommodation and those without. Those without accommodation (which the study says covers non-residential jobs) rose from 149,000 in 1996 to 277,000 in 2005, an increase of 86%. Those social work jobs with accommodation remained about 54,000 in the period. The imbalance may be explained in part by the public sector transferring or outsourcing more of its mainstream services to the voluntary sector, (ie those without accommodation) while it holds on to certain key services such as children’s homes; other residential units already being transferred in an earlier period or historically provided by the voluntary or private sector.

Other key findings were:

• Nearly one in three voluntary staff worked in units with less than 10 employees, compared with 25% for the private sector and 8% for the public.

• More than nine out of 10 employees are on permanent contracts.

• There are 375,000 full time employees and 236,000 part-time; they work 38 hours and 18.5 hours a week respectively.

• 69% of voluntary employees are female compared with 64% in the public sector and 40% in the private.

• There are 111,000 disabled people in the sector an increase form 14% to 18% of the total workforce between 1996 to 2005. The employment rate is higher than both the private and public sectors.

Recruitment and retention

The study cites studies that show about a quarter of voluntary sector bodies says they have encountered recruitment difficulties, mainly citing lack of experience and skills as the cause. However, skills reflect the lack of experience as only 13% of employers said applicants lacked requisite qualifications. This tallies with organisations saying that they recruit about a quarter of their staff each year. The areas most difficult to fill were youth work; social and health care.

Staff turnover was on average about 22% (of which about two-thirds was voluntary moves).

The study cites Unison research that said that most organisations were moving towards a generic “care worker” role and that the turnover rate was “leaving the users of the organisation’s services with little or no continuity of care, and only a few months of fully effective service delivery.”

The changing picture

The study finds that there has been an important transformation in the sector especially the social work occupations over the past 10 years and this is reflected in the workforce.

“They [employees] are now more likely to be employed in social work activities in a professional capacity and be highly skilled.”

The high numbers of part-time workers and the diffuse size of workplaces put a premium on planning and human resources management. With both, the report is confident that the sector will grow and thrive

Further information

The UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac 2007

Essential information on the social care workforce

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