Skills for Care publishes state of care workforce report

October 13, 2021

Skills for Care has published its new report today: The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England.

The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the adult social care workforce in England and the characteristics of the 1.54 million people working in it. Topics covered include Changes in the adult social care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, employment information, recruitment and retention, demographics, pay, qualification rates and future workforce forecasts.

A summary of the key findings:

  • The number of people working in adult social care was estimated at 1.54m as at 2020/21.
  • The number of adult social care jobs in England as at 2020/21 was estimated at 1.67 million – this has increased by around 2.8% (45,000 jobs) between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
  • Levels of staff sickness have nearly doubled over the course of the pandemic (an average of 9.5 days lost were lost to sickness in 2020/21 compared to 5.1 days before the pandemic).
  • Since the start of the pandemic, occupancy levels in care homes have fallen. There were a high number of deaths among care home residents in 2020/21 as well as a shift in demand away from residential care and towards domiciliary care, both contributing to the decrease.
  • An estimated 17,700 organisations were involved in providing or organising adult social care in England as at 2020/21. Those services were delivered in an estimated 39,000 establishments.
  • Between 2019/20 and 2020/21 jobs in domiciliary care increased by around 40,000 jobs (a 7.4% increase). Over the same period, despite a decrease in occupancy rates, jobs in care homes remained broadly the same.
  • Vacancy rates fell during the start of the pandemic, potentially due to fewer jobs being available in the wider economy during this period. Since May 2021, vacancy rates have steadily risen since 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’s estimates show that staff turnover rates decreased during the pandemic in 2020/21. Registered manager turnover rates were down by 4.7 percentage points and care workers turnover was down by 3.7 percentage points.
  • Skills for Care forecasts show that if the adult social care workforce grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population between 2020 and 2035, an increase of 29% (490,000 extra jobs) would be required by 2035.

Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Kathryn Smith, said, ‘Only two days ago there were rumours of a National Care Service being created. Today’s Skills for Care report shows that the government’s ambition of integrating the NHS and social care is currently far from achievable because of the critical workforce shortage in social care.

‘Tackling the pandemic-related backlog in NHS treatments requires stabilising social care. The two systems depend on each other, even if they are not fully integrated. Understaffing in social care delays hospital discharges, reduces care home places and limits the availability of home-based care.

‘We’ve been calling for a sustained increase in funding to stabilise the social care system and meet growing demand. The Skills for Care report highlights again that funding is desperately needed and must be ring-fenced.’

The Care Workers’ Charity welcomes the latest workforce intelligence report released today by Skills for Care, on the adult social care sector in England.

Karolina Gerlich, CEO of The Care Workers Charity said, ‘Whilst the Skills for Care report speaks of the ‘opportunity’ for social care to be presented as an alternative to other sectors in light of increased automation- we are not as optimistic. The latest ONS figures show the number of job vacancies in the UK has risen to over 1 million (for the first time since records began) (September 2021). In such a competitive labour market, sectors must have incentives (for e.g. decent pay, reward, recognition, respect) to attract recruits. The data showing the pay differentiation between social care and other sectors (hospitality, healthcare, retail for e.g.) illustrates the very real challenge we face without proper reform to pay structures and training provision, as well as a recognition of a career in social care as both valuable and professional. Until this is realised, we will continue to struggle.’

Kris Peach, Housing 21 executive director extra care, said, ‘Our sector is in crisis and currently makes up one in ten of all job vacancies across the UK. This means it is inadequately equipped with the people needed to care for the UK’s growing ageing population – now and into the next ten years.

‘Put simply, our care workers are tired. They have spent 18 months at the very frontline of the pandemic response. This, compacted by the current mandatory vaccinations uncertainty and in the wake of well-documented years of under-funding, has left care at the bottom of the jobs pile. We are struggling to compete with roles at higher pay rates and with less responsibility attached.’

Visit the Skills for Care website to download the report in full.

In other news, The House of Commons and Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee have published their report, ‘Coronavirus: Lessons learned to date, examining the initial UK response to the COVID pandemic’.


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