UK Care Worker Shortage


According to the latest annual Skills for Care Workforce Analysis - published in October 2022 - the number of unfilled roles in the adult social care sector has risen to the highest rate since records began in 2012/13.

There were 165,000 vacant posts in the social care sector as of 2021 / 2022 – up by 55,000 from 110,000 in 2020 / 2021.

Additionally fewer posts were filled demonstrating recruitment and retention problems rather than a decrease in demand for social care workers.

According to the report, the fact that there are many higher paid roles currently available in the wider economy that are also perceived as being less demanding is the main issue - despite recent increases in pay within the care sector.

Roughly the same proportion of workers are leaving their roles, but there are fewer people replacing them.

Adass have stated that the situation will become much worse without "immediate and substantial help" from the government.

The situation is having a profound impact on those requiring care and their immediate families.

A recent BBC article highlighted the plight of Cathy who described finding care for her 83 year old mother, Maureen, as “a nightmare”.

In the article Cathy was quoted as saying:

"Good care is what you would want for yourself and your parents... and it's not there. It's totally broken."

Maureen was told from an early stage in her illness that finding care would be all the more challenging because she lived in a rural area. With a lack of any care at home, she had some falls which resulted in hospitalisation.

After being discharged, Maureen’s condition rapidly became worse and she was re-admitted. At this stage, she became eligible for NHS-funded end-of-life care visits – however had to remain in hospital for over a week as a care company to visit her at home could not be found.

Eventually, Cathy ‘desperate and appalled’ resorted to finding care providers herself and the NHS agreed to pay for these. Maureen died of liver cancer on the same day as the Queen. Cathy describes the experience of her mother’s last days as ‘shocking’.

The Skills for Care report highlights the fact that we may need ‘an extra 480,000 people working in social care by 2035 to keep pace with demand. In addition, we may lose a further 430,000 people in the next 10-years if those aged 55 and over decide to retire.’

It is difficult to imagine how the type of scenario experienced by Cathy and Maureen may improve with predicted trends such as these – without much needed reform.

Pay within the sector is notoriously low. The report highlights the following:

  • On average, care workers with five years’ (or more) experience in the sector are paid 7p per hour more than a care worker with less than one year experience.
  • 4 out of 5 jobs in the economy pay more than jobs in social care.
  • Average care worker pay is £1 per hour less than healthcare assistants in the NHS that are new to their roles.

The report outlines the following objectives for tackling the current recruitment and retention issues.

“We will have to do more to attract and retain younger workers and men by showing what a rewarding job social care is and providing good development and career pathways.

We will have to focus on tackling the discrimination, racism and lack of development opportunities, especially into leadership roles, that people from diverse backgrounds tell us they are still facing.

We will have to improve pay for social care staff and the quality of jobs, our rates of zero hours contracts are 24% compared to 3% in the wider population and while flexibility is valued by some, we know that people on zero hours contracts have higher turnover.

We will have to support people in social care to develop in their careers. Social care requires much more complex skills than it did even 10-years ago as we support people with more complex needs and so investing in learning and development is essential. We know investing in learning and development reduces the average turnover rate for care workers by 9.5 percentage points to 31.7% amongst those that received some form of training compared to 41.2% amongst those that hadn’t. We also know that continued investment in staff training, reduces average turnover amongst care workers. Turnover is reduced by 9.1 percentage points for care workers who received more than 30 instances of training (24.7%) when compared to care workers with one instance of training (33.8%). Our data clearly show investing in workforce learning and development works.”

At Social Care TV we could not agree more with the objectives outlined above.

We believe that immediate action must be taken.

Simon Bottery, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said the report shows that the adult social care sector faces an “absolute crisis” in attempting to recruit staff.

He added: “As staff shortages continue to heap unstainable pressure on an already stretched workforce, we risk spiralling into a vicious circle that makes it ever harder to fill these vacancies.”

A government spokesman said: “We’re investing in adult social care and have made £500 million available to support discharge from hospital into the community and bolster the workforce this winter, on top of record funding to support our 10-year plan set out in the People at the Heart of Care white paper.

Tens of thousands of extra staff have also joined up since we added care workers to the Health and Care Worker Visa and the Shortage Occupation List.”

The official also stated that a £15m international recruitment fund as well as a new national campaign would commence soon.

We are glad to hear this and will be following progress closely.