Adult social care vacancy rate hits 10%

Staff shortages and sickness absence continue to increase as number of filled posts falls again, show latest Skills for Care figures

Home care worker speaking to older person
Photo: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe Stock

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.

At the same time, the number of filled posts in services has continued to fall, down 4.6% on March 2021 levels, compared with a 4.5% drop as of February this year.

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.”

9 Responses to Adult social care vacancy rate hits 10%

  1. Sureya April 9, 2022 at 8:27 am #

    It’s truly a world turned upside down. So there wouldn’t be a vacancy problem if tax payers paid sick pay to workers, pay was capped at below £10.10, employers were allowed to exploit workers from outside of the UK, tax payers subbed employers for the cost of bleach and mops. I wonder if the oft predicted crisis in social care has anything to do with the “business model”?

  2. William Mtisi April 11, 2022 at 3:10 pm #

    We are recruiting from abroad and there is a big problem affecting us and other domiciliary providers.
    As soon as the Carers arrive in the UK they find another job,, mostly in Nursing Homes. The Home Office seems to allow that to happen. Can something be done, otherwise it will be a hopeless project. These carers use domiciliary care agencies to come to UK not to work for these providers but for their own wish.

    • Tahin April 12, 2022 at 9:25 pm #

      Presumably workers are being recruited from abroad because UK workers won’t take up the jobs at the “going” rate of pay. But when those workers arrive in the UK and find out that other employers are offering better pay they should be prevented, with presumably the threat of deportation, from taking up those jobs. In other words they shouldn’t have the right to choose whichever employer they sell their labour to. That’s called indentured labour isn’t it?

  3. Frida K April 11, 2022 at 4:24 pm #

    A way to overcome staff shortages and burnout is for employers to consider recruiting part-time social workers within local authorities rather than preferring rigidly full-time workforces. Full-time only staff may make life a little easier for managers when allocating caseloads etc, but to dismiss the skills and potential linked to qualified registered social workers, who have no option but to work part-time, is discriminatory. Additional DBS checks, references, etc, have been quoted as reasons for not employing part-time social work staff, which is laughable when considering the vast array of public sector and community care roles requiring DBS checking whilst offering a variety of flexible working options. The majority of all social workers are female, and social work employers and managers need to recognise that many have additional caring and family commitments which make working full time impossible.

  4. Julia April 13, 2022 at 9:10 pm #

    The problem is the unsocialble hours with inadequate remuneration for the amount of stress and emotional toll that caring for people in their homes exerts on carers. I also take issue with the general lack of respect and trust that the carers receive from their employers when they are made to log in and out of each call, so that the client can be charged down to the minute and the poor carers are having to cut corners in order to be on time for the next client.
    If we could get rid of the middle man (agencies) and pay the worker the full amount the client or the LA is being charged, then we may start to see people considering this as a career. As it is, it will mostly be seen as a stop gap as it is work needing no qualifications, whilst a person is waiting for a better paid position.
    As the population ages, we are going to find there are fewer and fewer people prepared to put up with the demands of this work.

  5. Chris Sterry April 16, 2022 at 4:45 pm #

    There appears to be some misconception both in the article and in some of the comments.

    In the article. ‘the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions and dividend taxes introduced this month’ is being split between the NHS and Social Care over 3 years, with, initially the bulk of the money going to the NHS. Even if £500 million is being promised for Social Care is is way below the amounts that are required which is more like, £12 billion, which will only bring funding back to 2010 levels, which then was wholly insufficient.

    Then is the social care funding for council run Adult Social Care or for care workers in care homes, home care, respite care, supported living, hospices, etc or both.

    The rate of pay for care workers is also wholly insufficient now a minimum, the National Living Wage of £9.50 per hour and not the £10.10 being offered to non-UK workers, while it should be a minimum of the Real Living Wage of £9.90. But, workers can get £14/15 per hour at Supermarkets for much less responsibilities. Care staff have the life of the persons needing care in their hands, not just providing personal care of washing, dressing and toileting, but dispensing medication, meal preparation, emotional support, managing finances, ensuring safeguarding and much more.

    It is not just that care is in the private sector, for some councils also have care workers, maybe not employed directly, but through agencies with a long-arm connection, where care rates may be slightly higher but not by much. If done correctly it is a very demanding profession, not the misconception of many that it is unskilled for it does take great skills to provide care consistently of good quality. The workers, if providing good quality care should be respecting their choices and dignity of those to whom they provide care to and not just provide care how they wish for care should be person-centred.

    But there are unsocial hours too much travel time and not fully funded, if at all, training should be first class and relevant and much more.

    Social care has always been the very poor relation of the NHS, when it should be held in equal esteem by both Government and the UK population and has never been sufficiently funded and even more so over the last 12 years or so.

    If more is not done for social care and done urgently, then the quality and quantity of care will be severely diminished to where it is not really available. This will create even more pressures on a currently over-burdened NHS.

    You may not, currently require Social Care, but when you do or a family member does then you may find it is not there and it is not just social care for the elderly but for any age starting at times from birth and |COVID| is increasing demand on Social Care as well as the NHS.

    Don’t be fooled by the very ignorant and discriminative Government. who are just following many other Governments before them of any Party.

  6. Me April 18, 2022 at 9:06 pm #

    It doesn’t matter whether you throw 5p at social care, or 5 million, nothing is going to change. People can’t be forced into taking a job in social care. If some aren’t interested in working in the social care sector, then nothing more can be done about it regardless. There’s many other reasons why people are choosing to leave their jobs in the social care sector. It’s not down to just one or two reasons. Hasn’t enough money been thrown at social care by now? What improvements is anyone hoping will happen? Government need to start helping small independent businesses. They’re always talking about social care. I think the general public are fed up hearing about it.

  7. Izzy April 26, 2022 at 8:36 am #

    Before we blame supermarkets for inducing care staff to work for them on better pay perhaps we can start with a comparison of social worker pay against care sector pay. Or is that a tad too close to home given our incessant claims to be worth higher pay ourselves? Let’s start with our in house prejudices about professionals versus the unregistered if we want a better comparison. Actually Tesco is the highest paying supermarket and in Central London, where staff earn the most, pay will go up to 10.98 in August.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. April Reading Roundup - Z Cares - May 3, 2022

    […] April: Adult social care vacancy rate hits 10% (Community […]