Quarter of adult social care workforce leaving their jobs each year, report says

An election briefing by the Health Foundation warned pay freezes and poor workforce planning were impacting social care staff retention

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A quarter of the adult social care workforce left their jobs last year, a briefing by the Health Foundation has said.

The election briefing on the current state of the health and social care workforce said there were “severe” adult social care staff shortages where “more than 900 people are estimated to leave their job every day”.

“The annual rate of leavers has increased steadily, from 23% of the workforce in 2012/13 to 27% in 2015/16,” the briefing said.

The vacancy rate among social workers also rose, from 7.3% to 13.1%   between 2012 and 2015, the report added. It added the real value of pay for health and social care workers “fell by 5.8%” over the past seven years, compared with a reduction of 1.9% in the wider economy.

The situation has improved because of the introduction of the national living wage for staff aged over 25 in April 2016, which has increased the pay floor from £6.70 to £7.50 an hour. However, the report warned that this may have minimal impact on retention because the living wage had increased pay in other sectors too.


The foundation said the market for social care was “fragmented”, which made workforce planning more complex.

“At present there is no national statutory body responsible for ensuring that England has a social care workforce with the skills needed to provide a high-quality service,” it said.

The foundation said health and social care would need to become integrated to meet changing needs, and concluded that “piecemeal policymaking” was not serving the sector well.

“The NHS and social care will not be able to move forward to deliver sustained efficiency improvements and transform services without an effective workforce strategy,” the report said.


Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said the number of social care staff leaving their jobs “raises concerns about the sustainability of the service”.

“Retention, recruitment and morale will continue to be a thorn in the side of the health and social care sector if action is not taken to address the root cause of these problems,” Charlesworth said.

“If pay restraint in the public sector continues to 2019/20, it will have been in place for almost a decade. It is a policy that is testing the resilience of the workforce and the ability of services to improve while maintaining standards of care,” she added.

Charlesworth also pointed towards uncertainty over Brexit, with around 90,000 social care workers being from the EU. There could be “major implications” for the quality of care if there was a “significant reduction” in EU staff, Charlesworth said.

The foundation recommended the next government end the public sector pay cap, and train more staff than will be needed to help fill the current gaps.

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3 Responses to Quarter of adult social care workforce leaving their jobs each year, report says

  1. Berni May 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    Small wonder that there are not more people who have left social care.

    I recently decided to have time out to reflect on what I may do next having worked in adult social care for only three years as a social worker.

    For me the issue is the lack openness , honesty and common sense about the challenges ahead and what the not long heralded social care Act actually means.

    Does the social care Act mean that all people regardless of need will now not be able to get the support they need and it will empower people following a social model.

    I hear it —- we want people to stay at home , be independent , for community resources through third party organisations to be more available. We want people to be active , healthy and not have to receive care if its not needed.

    This is way I and I imagine most social workers have always worked. Residential homes without being unkind are a place of last resort. But if someone is not safe at home due to a condition or health deterioration that person should always be able to ,

    Have a package of care for as long as possible at home , be in control and the interventions should always be aimed at improving a persons day to day life. But if the person needs residential care they should be able to get it.

    The problem is we as social workers are often advised to look at everything else first and even then we may not have panel applications agreed for a care package.

    Lets be clear , there are very few third sector organisations and those that are out there doing a great job need funding and support.

    These organisations are not also able to provide care , and manage care packages .

    We know why , there is no money at all due to austerity cuts which will continue.

    I know , you may be thinking ah well if you cannot hack it get out of social work.

    The question I would ask is what social work are we now doing ?

    My job , the last time I thought it over is to promote rights and protect and advocate so that people can live the best life they can often with change as we get older as independently as possible.

    My code of practice also advises that this is expected .

    No one wants care or to go into a home but people do want social workers to support them and this will at times mean asking for funding which could mean residential care.

    You cannot get funding for residential care unless it is a catastrophic situation for the person.

    When challenged by families managers often advise that they have not declined support but merely deferred . The social worker often takes the blame .

    Yes there were a lot of old Acts which made the art of their use arcane when trying to support people . Heres the thing , many of the Acts had the merit of duty placed on authorities which the new social care Act only seems to mention around the key area of safeguarding.

    The social care Act 2015 for me allows local authorities to make their own provisions locally as in ” We will not hold you to account any longer , funding where what and when and how much is down to you ”

    Oh yes well when we get into difficulty and matters arise at courts we will of course expect local authorities to justify and evidence why decisions have been taken .


    I want to work with employers who have as much vim and fight as me and are passionate and proud to work on behalf of people who have contributed all their lives to a system which is now abandoning them .

    We also need to take the profit out of social care and homes and care agencies should be run as not for profit also.

    We also need a carers guild for care workers and training to go with it set at improving and maintaining care standards.

    Carers do a brilliant job but are often over looked . We need to change that by making the profession a recognized profession with a qualification to match .

    If pay was incremental by training and qualification awards in conjunction with evidenced and reliable monitoring of the care delivered we would see more people wanting to stay and new people come in.

    I am not out of the fight and will be back doing what I love soon I just wish our employers would be more involved in getting resources and supporting social care staff.

    All I ever hear is cuts-money-cuts-not available-cuts. Someone turn off the tap I am starting to believe the rhetoric .

    No never as Churchill may no doubt say .

  2. Andy Storey May 25, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    This topic relates directly to the very recent C.C. article ‘ You can’t return to social work without first facing why you left’, and particularly the subsequent replies.
    To not reiterate the points made by experienced front line social workers I would encourage you to read them for yourself. So much that’s wrong hinges on poor management ensconced in an over bureaucratic and wasteful (of fnance and of talent) system.

  3. Blair McPherson May 25, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    If they left because…there were a lot of unpopular changes, we were experimenting with changing the skill mix, long hours and a cap on pay rises didn’t help. The emphases on efficiency was well intended but may have given the wrong impression.
    The management philosophy was more appropriate to the private sector, too many targets, too much naming and shaming not enough valuing and supporting. Zero contracts, the over reliance on agency staff and the aggressive approach to absence management were a failed experiment.
    Seeing people as ,”customers” seemed like a good idea but choice and value for money can have unintended consequences.
    There was a lot of uncertainty what with proposals on mergers, centralising services and outsourcing.
    We lost a lot of good people.