Skills for Care to develop social care workforce strategy

Announcement follows longstanding sector calls for government to develop long-term plan for social care staffing, similar to NHS workforce strategy

Dial pointed at the word 'strategy'
Photo: Olivier Le Moal/Adobe Stock

Skills for Care will develop a 15-year strategy for the adult social care workforce, it announced today.

The workforce development body issued the pledge as it published the full report from its annual State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England study.

It will work with other organisations, including think-tank the King’s Fund, in developing the strategy.

The news follows longstanding calls from sector bodies for the government to produce a strategy, to improve reward, progression and recognition for staff, and enhance workforce planning, so the sector had sufficient workers with the right skills to meet future need.

These were restated when NHS England published a 15-year plan for the health workforce in June 2023.

No government involvement

But while the Department of Health and Social Care commissioned the NHS strategy and is Skills for Care’s main funder, the workforce development body took the decision to develop the strategy itself, without DHSC involvement.

Skills for Care chief executive Oonagh Smyth said the 2022-23 state of care report showed some “green shoots”, with the vacancy rate having fallen from 10.6% to 9.9% in the year to March 2023.

That trend has continued since, with separate Skills for Care data showing that the vacancy rate among a sample of independent care providers had fallen to 8.4%, as of August this year.

However, Smyth warned that the sector’s workforce challenges had not gone away.

Social care workforce ‘a leaky bucket’

“In particular, the fact that 390,000 people left their jobs in 2022-23 and around a third of them left the sector altogether shows that we have a leaky bucket that we urgently need to repair,” she said.

“We can’t simply recruit our way out of our retention challenges. So, we need a comprehensive workforce strategy to ensure we can both attract and keep enough people with the right skills to support everyone who draws on care and support – and all of us who will draw on care and support in the future.

“We’ll be using the expertise, data, insights and relationships we have developed over the last 20 years to develop that strategy. Given the rich diversity of the sector, any strategy will only be successful if it’s created by the many organisations and people that have a stake in the future of social care, so we’ll be working with a wide range of partners who are willing to embrace and drive the changes we need.”

DHSC: ‘our actions are helping fill vacancies’

In response, a DHSC spokesperson said: “The action we’ve taken is growing the social care workforce and filling vacancies, meaning there is more capacity in the social care system than last year.”

This includes enabling employers to recruit care staff through skilled worker visas since February 2022, on the back of which, 70,000 staff were recruited into direct care roles, up from 20,000 the previous year.

The department said that an estimated 40,000 additional care staff had been recruited from overseas from April to August 2023.

The spokesperson also pointed to the market sustainability and improvement fund – workforce fund, through which councils are receiving £365m this year and £205m in 2024-25, primarily to address workforce pressures in their areas.

Ministers have suggested that providers use this to boost pay.

The spokesperson added: “To further bolster the workforce this week we launched the next phase of our Made With Care recruitment campaign – designed to reach millions of people via video on demand, radio and digital channels – and the average pay for care workers has also increased.”

Sector bodies welcome strategy plan

Sector bodies welcomed Skills for Care’s plan to develop a strategy for the 1.6m strong workforce.

“A comprehensive plan for that workforce is vital to help set a direction for recruiting and retaining staff and making social care a more rewarding and attractive career choice,” said King’s Fund senior fellow Simon Bottery.

“ That’s why are delighted to be working with Skills for Care and other organisations to help tackle the challenges across the adult social care sector by developing a long-term workforce strategy.”

The Homecare Association, which represents domiciliary care providers, was also supportive.

“Demand for homecare is rising,” said its chief executive, Jane Townson. “Complexity of need is increasing. We must ensure we grow and develop the homecare workforce to meet changing needs. This includes addressing opportunities and challenges.”

Strategy ‘not enough without investment’

Health service body NHS Providers and think-tank the Health Foundation also welcomed the planned strategy but stressed that it would not be sufficient on its own.

“A plan alone will not be enough unless it is accompanied by sustainable government investment and support to ensure the sector can not only recruit but keep much-needed staff,” said NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy. Miriam Deakin.

Health Foundation director of policy Hugh Alderwick said that “improving jobs in social care and growing the workforce over the long term depends on sufficient investment and sustained policy action from government”.

He said that the government’s decision to raise the national living wage – the pay floor for those aged 23 and over – from £10.42 to over £11 an hour would help the lowest-paid care workers.

However, he added: “The social care system is already struggling to meet the costs of providing high quality care, so without additional government funding, this move risks piling further pressure on care providers and leaving people without the care they need.”


4 Responses to Skills for Care to develop social care workforce strategy

  1. Chris Sterry October 12, 2023 at 1:51 pm #

    The reason the Government is not involved in a social care workforce strategy is that they are failing to recognise the significance of social care and in some respects, I feel some in government are not aware there is social care, be it for children or adults. I say this after looking at government or should I say inactions with social care for more years than I care to remember as I have been involved in social care through my own family for going on 40 years. In doing so I have become particularly active with my own local council and health authorities, my local Healthwatch, and several disability charities/voluntary organisations in many voluntary capacities.

    I am also an active blogger and correspond with my local MP on numerous matters on a regular basis.

    I welcome the involvement of Skills for Care, but to really solve social care much more investments are required and on a regular sustained basis, for without social care will virtually cease to exist, even much more than currently. In doing so this will have drastic consequences if social care fails to do so. on the NHS, which also could well not survive. The staffing crisis is not just in public social care bodies, but also in the private/voluntary sectors and as in many instances in the UK the main problems are pay and working conditions.

    In many other instances, it is the pay scales that have been left to stagnate, but in carer sectors, it is not just stagnation, but the total inappropriate starting pay levels. For many care workers, their starting pay level is the National Living Wage or just above which has been forever, but for the responsibilities that care workers take on the starting pay rate has to be much higher, than the National Living Rate of £10.42 but in reality more around £14/15 per hour and then increase annually in inline with inflation. But their working condition also needs to be improved as for many holidays, especially Bank Holidays are failing to be recognised, let alone payments for other expenses incurred.

    Yes. many care workers are in the private sector, but the funding for their employers comes mainly from Local Authorities. This is especially so when a person in need of care gets funding in the form of a Direct Payment from a Local Authority (LA) or if there is some element of health care then a Personal Health Budget from the Continuing Health Care which was under the old CCG, (Clinical Commissioning Group) but now the ICSs (Integrated Care Systems) to pay their own Personal Assistants (PAs). While the person in need pays their own PAs the pay rate is determined by their local LA or ICS.

    Even obtaining a PA is now very difficult due to the rates of pay and leads to a severe reduction in the amount and quality of care being received.

    With this government and the next even with a chan get of party in control, I don’t see any prospects for saving social care and with that the NHS, no matter what promises are uttered by the government in power. For without a viable social care the NHS is virtually doomed itself.

    The situation is really, so dire, but not apparently, by government actions, or more to the point inactions.

  2. Delia Donovan October 13, 2023 at 6:29 pm #

    I have been working as a carer for 24 years nearly & in this time wages have gone up £6ph disgraceful, for the amount of responsibility that goes with caring for a client, many private agencies I work for 2,are 0 hours contract & don’t pay travelling time so you can be out for 9 hours but only paid for 6,the whole social care needs a good overhaul

  3. Hilary October 14, 2023 at 12:55 pm #


    I’m a live in care provider and there is still great demand for improvement within this industry,I’m NHS professionals band 6 mental health practitioner pay is £11ph fair pay ??

    Should be receiving the same pay as NHS
    Our rotation can vary from 2 weeks on/4 off nobody can run a home with insignificant funds.

    • Hilary October 14, 2023 at 1:03 pm #

      Just like to add I’m in contact with local MPs BBC news , journalist for sun newspaper
      And the mirror cheif editor
      MP did make a change with unpaid carers providing care at home to relatives