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Adult social care facing 112,000 vacancies and ‘significant future challenges’, report finds


By Awil Mohamoud
22 October 2020

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The adult social care sector in England has needed to fill 112,000 vacancies on any given day in 2019/20, according to a Skills for Care report.

Using data provided by employers, the charity found that this is a decrease of around 4,500 vacancies (0.3%) from 2018/19, but said there was evidence to suggest it may have fallen further since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It marks the first drop in vacancy rates in eight years – with the rates increasing year-on-year between 2012/13 and 2018/19, from 4.4% to 7.6%.

The workforce development body said the decrease this year amounts to only a ‘slight reduction’ in vacancies, and warned that ‘employers still need to find thousands of new workers’. Christina McAnea, UNISON assistant general secretary, said the high vacancy rates ‘prove the care system is broken’, and called on the Government to overhaul the sector, by improving pay, working conditions and opportunities for staff, as well as adapting migration policies.

Increasing workforce pressures

The report found that registered nurse and registered manager positions had the highest vacancy rates in 2019/20, with 12.3% and 12%, respectively, while for managers and supervisors that figure stood at just 2.9%.For care worker roles, there was an 8.2% vacancy rate.

The adult social care sector faces ‘significant future challenges’, given ‘a projected increase in demand as the population ages’, the report said. 

It added that new immigration rules, due to come into effect on 1 January 2021, will add to this strain, as ‘care worker’ was not listed as an eligible occupation on the skilled workers route.

Around 84% of the adult social care workforce in England are British, 7% (113,000 jobs) have an EU nationality and 9% (134,000 jobs) have a non-EU nationality, according to the report.

It added: ‘Up until March 2020, Brexit appeared to have had little effect on these trends, with the number of EU nationals continuing to increase and the number of non-EU nationals decreasing. Since then, however, there has been a reduction in the number of people arriving in England to work in adult social care jobs. This is mostly likely a result of less travel taking place due to the pandemic.’

Skills for Care also estimated that there was a 30.4% staff turnover rate among those directly employed in the sector in 2019/20, equating to approximately 430,000 people leaving their jobs over the course of the year.

However, most of these leavers don’t leave adult social care, as around two-thirds (67%) of jobs were recruited from other roles within the sector, it added.

Workforce pressures have also multiplied during Covid-19, with the average percentage of sick days having increased from 2.7% pre-pandemic to 7.5% between March and August 2020, the report added.

These findings come as the Health and Social Care Committee today called on the Government to raise the annual social care budget by £7bn to help ‘resolve the crisis in funding’.

‘Issues need to be urgently addressed’

Kate Terroni, Care Quality Commission (CQC) adult social care chief inspector, said: ‘We welcome Skills for Care’s report. For years, we’ve been calling for a better funding settlement for adult social care. Last year, we warned that the continuing lack of a long-term sustainable solution for adult social care was having a damaging impact on the quality and quantity of available care.

‘Our latest State of Care report makes clear that these issues need to be urgently addressed and also calls for a new deal for the care workforce, which develops clear career progression, secures the right skills for the sector, better recognises and values staff, invests in their training and supports appropriate professionalisation.’

Helen Whately, care minister, said the report underlined the challenges for social care employers and the importance of investing in training and career opportunities.

She added: ‘Recognising the recruitment challenge, we have run a national recruitment campaign highlighting the important work care workers do and launched the ‘Join Social Care’ online recruitment tool. We’re also working with DWP to promote adult social care careers to jobseekers.

‘We are supporting care providers through the pandemic with the costs of pay for staff required to self-isolate and so no care worker should lose income as a result of the requirement to only work in one location, with the £1.1 billion infection control fund.’

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