Adult social care vacancies up 52% over past year

Skills for Care data also shows first drop in number of filled posts in sector since records began

Old metal sign with the inscription Vacancies
Photo: Zerbor/Adobe Stock

Updated 25 July 2022

The number of job vacancies in adult social care in England rose by 52% last year, while the number of filled posts dropped for the first time since records began, official figures show.

There were 165,000 vacant posts as of March 2022, up 55,000 on the year before, and representing just under 10% of roles, found Skills for Care’s latest analysis of the size and structure of the workforce.

The workforce development body said the increase in vacancies was driven by employers’ recruitment and retention difficulties, not falling demand for care, as the rise in empty posts was matched by a 50,000 fall in the number of filled roles, from 1,670,000 to 1,620,000 (1.62m).

This brings to an end a year-on-year rise in the size of the workforce since records began in 2012-13, when there were 1.5m filled roles in the sector.

And the situation appears to have deteriorated further since March, with vacancies rising from 9.9% to 10.3% in May, with no growth in filled posts, according to separate Skills for Care figures.

The data showed that the drop in filled posts was concentrated in the independent sector (down 45,000) and among direct payment recipients who employed their own staff (down 10,000). Within residential care homes, there was a drop of 13,000 filled posts, with a 15,000 fall in nursing homes and a 19,000 reduction in domiciliary care.

Increasing pay gap

Factors cited for the trend include workforce attrition caused by the immense challenges of working through the pandemic, a drop in immigration from Europe following Brexit, social care being overtaken, in terms of pay, by other low-paid sectors, such as retail, and the widening gap in remuneration between equivalent roles in social care and the NHS, such as nursing.

The consequences of the workforce gaps include increased costs for local authorities, said the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, following its annual spring survey, also released this week. Directors said pay for entry-level home care staff needed to increase to £12.77 per hour, £3.27 above the current national living wage that many of them are paid, to minimise recruitment difficulties.

In a separate report released on July 25, MPs called for social care workers to be given “parity of esteem” with NHS colleagues, including through increased pay – delivered through a £7bn annual boost in social care funding by 2023-24.

The report from the health and social care select committee said that social care providers were “consistently being outbid by the retail and hospitality sectors” on pay.

However, it said that action on pay would not be sufficient to tackle recruitment and retention in social care, with a long-term strategy needed that encompassed pay progression and improved learning and development.

Recruitment and retention challenges

In response to its findings, Skills for Care chief executive officer Oonagh Smyth pointed to the challenges of recruiting sufficient staff to meet the growing need for care over coming years, driven by an ageing population and many more people experiencing multiple long-term conditions.

“This highlights the recruitment and retention challenges which we know social care employers are facing right now and is not a decrease in demand for care services,” she said. “In fact, our forecast data tells us that we will need a 27% increase in posts in social care by 2035 to continue to maintain the current levels of care and support to people who will need it in the future.”

Smyth added: “Adult social care workers are passionate and skilled professionals working across complex roles, something which was ever more evident through the peak of the pandemic. Skills for Care is working hard with all our partners to raise the profile of social care in communities and the opportunities available to people with the right qualities to build a rewarding, lifelong career in adult social care.”

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4 Responses to Adult social care vacancies up 52% over past year

  1. Berni July 22, 2022 at 2:07 pm #

    A perfect storm really by fault or design .

    The NHS does not function unless social care is functioning .

    Social care has a negative identity problem from care workers to social workers .

    Being that social care is in such a mess , could we start again .

    Social care , the care of people is not cheap but if you add profit its not really doable .

    I have said previously and often here and elsewhere we need a recognised qualification for the social care workforce .

    What’s in a name . Can we rename care workers to nurse carers who have been trained and belong to a nurse carers guild supported by LAs and quality assured by local colleges .

    Its there already I believe in entry level nursing so why are we not using this . And yes you would rightly pay people as they go through their 2/3 year training .

    The social care Act 2014 has a strong nod to social enterprise should LAs set up this training group under that – yes . Could LAs keep training people in this way , yes it should .

    I mentioned this some time ago in a professionals meeting as the same issues always come up and I was advised that I had been around too long and this had already been done . No , I don’t think it has but this is just one idea from a person working in social care .

    Where is the leadership and courage to think differently , I know somewhere someone is going to do this and there is over 500 million pounds available for training .

    Its just so frustrating that no one is taking this on I would if I could believe me .

  2. Hygea Homecare July 28, 2022 at 10:35 am #

    Recruitment for social care has been an issue for many years. However, the pandemic only highlighted the issue even further. Since the rise of Covid, the industry has seen many care workers lose jobs, be made redundant, and leave the sector ultimately to chase a different career path.

    Enticing ex-care workers back into the industry has proven difficult over the last year from personal experiences within recruiting for our Domiciliary care company, we have increased pay as much as possible, increased mileage rates and provided a multitude of company benefits.

    However, recruiting remains a tricky subject for many small care companies. Small companies do not have enormous resources to spend on recruiting, and advertising with no additional help from the government will remain an issue to supply the level of carers to meet the demands of clients that require care at home.

    We are one of many companies in the early stages of being a care provider, but even we find that there is a stigma that care workers are mistreated, with long hours and little pay. This is not always the case, and this stigma needs to change to train new individuals in the care sector, where their personal development and career prospects are in tune with pay.

  3. Chris Sterry August 1, 2022 at 3:58 pm #

    As it has been said, vacancies and recruitment have been problems for some many years, but it has become much worse recently.

    However, pay is not the only reason and Brexit and UK immigration policy have also had their impact. but there are also other being

    1. travel including travel expenses, fuel is a major problem, certainly with its current high costs, but travel expenses for care workers are not generally available, except that mileage may be paid as expenses, but not always but travel time should also be paid.

    2. unsocial hours should also be a factor in pay

    3. as should working Bank Holidays while, as well as being even back the day worked, extra pay should be paid for doing so

    4. sick pay is also an issue as there should be a recognised sick pay scheme for care workers, as with the low pay rates, being sick and having to rely on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is not realistic, especially when the first 3 days are not paid at all when on SSP

    5. as to the pay rate £15.00 would be more realistic than the current National Living Wage of £9.50 or even the Real Living Wage of £9.90, https://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation?gclid=Cj0KCQjw852XBhC6ARIsAJsFPN1RzEKXzlKtRQ90jnAanl-88fHAVlWzeVS2Z8OoKXVcLyX3NblZvEUaAvWgEALw_wcB or even the £12.77 quoted in the article

    6. Care work needs to be recognised as a profession and its public perception greatly improved, as is the case for social care in general

    But for any or all of the above to be achieved the Government needs to take onboard the crisis in social care and not ignore it as has been so for all previous Governments.

    Yes, this Government did promise a fraction of the £5.1 billion, supposed to be funded by the NI surcharge, but none of this is guaranteed, which it has to be and much more, to £12 billion. But that would only bring the funding back to 2010 levels which, then, was totally inadequate.

    Social care needs to be adequately funded, which it has never been and until it is persons in need of care will be left to suffer or much worse, even death and this lack of recognition and funding is seriously adding to the NHS crisis.

    Some will say bring all social care back to LAs, but it was not a real success when it was and it would remove choice from the system completely, which has to be maintained for the choices of persons in need of care should always be respected. So all the above 1-6 and more needs to be done and done urgently so that people in need of care and their families are safeguarded.

    While Local Authorities have to be made accountable, even more so should the Government be and be blamed for all that is occurring though years of inactions and ignoring the problems.

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