Social care workforce growing again

Released On 17th Jul 2023

Social care workforce growing again

The adult social care workforce in England started growing again in 2022-23, according to new data from Skills for Care.

The annual Size and Structure of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report from the strategic workforce development body found that the number of filled posts increased by around 1% (20,000) between April 2022 and March 2023. The previous year, the number of filled posts fell for the first time on record, by around 4% (60,000).

The new figures – based on data from Skills for Care’s Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) and other sources – show that, at the same time, the vacancy rate decreased to 9.9%, or around 152,000 on any given day, compared with 10.6% (around 164,000) the previous year.

The number of vacant posts includes posts vacant in the short term due to recent or anticipated staff turnover, posts created by employers who want to expand their businesses, as well as more persistent vacancies where the offer to potential staff is not sufficiently competitive in the local labour market. Some vacant posts may be covered by agency staff.

Some employers are using international recruitment to help them address recruitment and retention challenges, with around 70,000 people recruited from abroad into direct care-providing roles. Home Office figures show that around 58,000 received Skilled Worker visas after adult social care was added to the Shortage Occupation List in February 2022. Others will have arrived in the UK via other routes such as family permits. The level of international recruitment has contributed to the rate of new starters increasing from 32% to 34% in the independent sector.

At the same time, the turnover rate in the independent sector decreased from 32% to 30%. Early evidence from ASC-WDS suggests the turnover rate for international recruits was around half that of people recruited from within the UK. The total number of filled posts in adult social care in 2022-23 was estimated at 1.635 million. These posts were filled by 1.52 million people which is 5.2% of the total workforce in England, and more than the number of people working in the NHS, schools or food and drink manufacturing.

For independent sector care homes, the number of filled posts was up by 3% (16,000). In independent sector domiciliary care services, the number of filled posts increased by 2% (10,000). There was a small drop in the number of Personal Assistants and posts employed by local authorities. The total number of posts in adult social care in England, including filled posts and staff vacancies, was 1.79 million in 2022-23 – an increase of 0.5% from the previous year.

The figures continue to point to long-term challenges for the social care workforce, Skills for Care reports. If it grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population, the number of posts will need to increase by around 445,000 posts to around 2.23 million by 2035, Skills for Care estimates.

Oonagh Smyth, Chief Executive Officer of Skills for Care, said, 'It is encouraging that the number of filled posts has gone up and the vacancy rate has come down. Nevertheless, the data shared by employers with our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set still show significant pressure on them to find and keep people with the right values needed to work in care.

'It’s positive that we now have a workforce plan for the NHS, which recognises how health and social care are dependent on each other. Our data support the case for a social care workforce plan, including consideration of terms and conditions to support social care roles to be competitive in local labour markets. This will help to make sure that we have enough people with the right skills in the right places to support people who draw on care and support now, and for future generations.

'Any workforce plan needs to involve a range of partners as social care is a large and diverse sector. Skills for Care is ready to work with local and national Government, employers, people who draw on care and support and our sector partners to help deliver a sustainable plan for the adult social care workforce.'

In response to the latest Skills for Care report outlining that the social care workforce is growing again, Karolina Gerlich, Chief Executive Officer of The Care Workers’ Charity, said, 'Even though the 1% filled post increase is a glimmer of hope, we must keep fighting for the care system we want to see. Skills for Care’s most recent report highlights that right now, we still have 152,000 vacant posts, and the number of posts will need to increase by around 445,000 by 2035.

'This needs to start with a bold reform from the Government, backed by substantial funding and based on the understanding that we need to value both the lives of the people we support and those who provide that support. That can’t be expected to cost pennies. Social care reform needs to recognise care workers as highly skilled professionals that deliver important work based on relationships, not tasks.'

Professor Vic Rayner, Chief Executive Officer of the National Care Forum, said, 'The report shows that the workforce situation in social care remains critical. The small reduction in vacancies is a direct result of the fantastic contribution that our international colleagues have made to support the delivery of social care up and down the country.

'Over 70,000 workers have joined the English care workforce from other countries, and their presence is a contribution to be celebrated, whilst at the same time recognising it masks a further shrinking of the domestic workforce. The gaping strategic hole created by the absence of a funded workforce plan for social care could not be any clearer, and the Government must take action now.'

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