A new Skills for Care report has provided a “stark reminder” of the recruitment challenges facing social care.
The annual ‘State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report reveals that on average, 6.8% of roles in adult social care were vacant in 2020/21, which is equivalent to 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day. The vacancy rate has been persistently high at above 6% for the previous six years.
Turnover rates across the sector remain high, at 28.5% in 2020/21. This figure had decreased during the pandemic, but since March 2021 many employers report that retention is now more difficult than before the pandemic. The rate was higher for registered nurses at 38.2%, much higher than for their counterparts in the NHS (8.8%).
Since May 2021, vacancy rates have steadily risen as the wider economy has opened back up. As of August 2021, vacancy rates are now back above their pre-pandemic levels.
Skills for Care also noted a decrease in jobs (filled posts) of around -1.8% – the first time the number has fallen. At the same time vacancy rates are increasing.
Skills for Care said: “This indicates that providers are struggling with recruitment and retention, rather than a decrease in demand, which we know from our market insights. This is even more pertinent in registered nurse jobs, which have fallen by 5% to 34,000 in the last year.”
In 2020/21 the number of adult social care jobs increased by 2.8% (45,000 jobs). The vast majority of this increase was in domiciliary care services which increased by 7.4% (40,000 jobs).
The total number of direct payment recipients employing staff has remained stable (at around 70,000, and 130,000 jobs) since 2014/15.
Occupancy rates of care homes also fell during the pandemic from 86% pre-COVID to 77% in March 2021.
The National Living Wage (NLW) contributed to a 6% increase in the median nominal care worker hourly rate from March 2020 to March 2021. However, employers have found it more difficult to maintain differentials for more experienced workers, care workers with five years’ (or more) experience in the sector are paid just 6 pence (1%) more per hour than care workers with less than one year of experience.
Social care workers from a Black, Asian or minority ethnicity make up 21% of the total workforce with 82% female and 27% aged 55 and over. The report shows social care is a growing market currently contributing £50.3 billion to the English economy.
Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth said: “This report is a stark reminder that our recruitment challenges continue, and to help tackle that we need to properly reward and value care workers for their high skill levels and dedication. We know that this is a priority for the new Government White Paper expected on adult social care this year and look forward to seeing the measures contained.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We appreciate the dedication and tireless efforts of care workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We are providing at least £500 million to support the care workforce as part of the £5.4 billion to reform social care.
“We are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands. This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing councils with over £1 billion of additional funding for social care this year.”