The staff vacancy rate across adult social care services in England hit 10% last month, show figures released today.
The rate rose from 9.8% in February, and continues the ongoing rise in staffing gaps since May 2021, when 5.9% of posts were vacant, according to Skills for Care’s adult social care workforce data set.
There is also an upward trend in sickness absence, with the average number of days lost to sickness per worker in the previous 12 months rising to 9.7 in March 2022, continuing a month-on-month rise since October 2021, when it stood at 8.2 days.
Vacancies continue to be worst in the home care sector, reaching 13% last month, up from 12.8% in February and 7.6% in May 2021. Among roles, 18% of registered nursing posts were vacant, up 8.4 percentage points over the previous year, with registered manager vacancies at 13.4% and care workers 12.2%.
In relation to filled posts, nursing homes were most badly hit, with a fall of 6% since March 2021 and a drop of 8.5% among care worker posts specifically.
Withdrawal of government funding
The figures come with the government withdrawing additional funding to support recruitment and retention in the sector, which was worth £462.5m from October 2021 to the end of last month. It has also scrapped funding to help providers pay staff on sick leave and boost staffing levels to control the spread of Covid-19, notably by minimising staff movement between homes.
On a more positive note for providers, as of last month, care home staff no longer have to be double jabbed against Covid, and the threat of extending the policy of mandatory vaccination to the home care sector has also been lifted.
Also, employers have been permitted to recruit care workers from abroad since February – but only if they earn £10.10 an hour, well above what many receive and providers pay for a migration sponsorship licence – and the national living wage went up by 6.6% this month, to £9.50 an hour. However, while this will benefit many care workers, it will likely amount to a real-terms pay cut, with inflation expected to reach 9% later this year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The Department of Health and Social Care has committed £500m over the next three years – funded from the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions and dividend taxes introduced this month – to invest in the wellbeing, skills and development of the adult social care workforce.
£500m for workforce wellbeing and development
How the funding will be allocated is yet to be determined but the DHSC has said it will finance:
- a knowledge and skills framework, career pathways and linked investment in learning and development to support progression for care workers and registered managers;
- training for staff to achieve care certificates, a minimum standard for care roles, and work to standardise these so the are portable between posts;
- continuous professional development budgets for registered nurses, nursing associates, occupational therapists and other allied health professionals;
- wellbeing and mental health support initiatives and and improved access to occupational health services for care staff;
- a digital hub for the workforce to access support, information and advice, and a portable record of learning and development;
- the identification and sharing of good practice approaches to recruitment.
Responding to today’s figures, Skills for Care’s chief executive, Oonagh Smyth, said: “Our latest monthly data highlights the recruitment and retention challenges that we know providers are facing right now. Through our recruitment resources, and by working directly with providers, local authorities, and the Department of Health and Social Care we are aiming to support employers to tackle this challenge.
“At the same time, we must also see this as an opportunity to attract new people to build a career in care. We must focus on showcasing the rewards of building a long and fulfilling career in social care, and this is a core part of Skills for Care’s strategy over the next three years.”