Skills for Care evaluate the state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England

policy digest

30 / 10 / 2018

State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England
Skills for Care, September 2018

The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report by Skills for Care provides information about the adult social care sector including, recruitment and retention issues, workforce demographics, pay and future workforce forecasts. Much of the information comes from The National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC) an online workforce data collection system for the adult social care sector, launched in 2007 which has now been collecting workforce intelligence about the sector for over a decade. 

The report authors emphasise the importance of the government having a robust evidence base to draw on when making decisions for the future of adult social care. It says that the workforce strategy being drawn up by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), covering care workforce has ‘drawn heavily’ from the intelligence in this report.

The report finds that the adult social care sector is growing, with around 21,200 organisations in 41,000 care providing locations and a workforce of around 1.6 million jobs. The number of full-time equivalent jobs in 2017 was estimated at 1.13 million and the number of people working in adult social care was estimated at 1.47 million. The number of adult social care jobs has increased by 21% since 2009 (by 275,000 jobs). However, the rate of growth in jobs has slowed compared to previous years.

The adult social care sector makes an important contribution to the economy and is estimated to contribute £38.5 billion per annum to the economy in England. 

Whilst the majority (90%) of the adult social care workforce were employed on permanent contracts. Around a quarter of the workforce were recorded as being on zero-hours contracts (25%, 335,000 jobs). The percentage of workers on zero-hours contracts remained relatively stable between 2012/13 and 2017/18.

Recruitment and retention 

Workers in adult social care had, on average, eight years of experience in the sector and around 70% of the workforce had been working in the sector for at least three years.

However, Skills for care highlight their concerns in the report about the level of turnover and churn in adult social care workforce, saying that it “indicates that employers are struggling to find, recruit and retain suitable people to the sector.” And more worryingly they say “a large proportion of staff turnover is a result of people leaving jobs soon after joining.”

The staff turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was estimated by skills for care as standing at 30.7% This is equal to 390,000 people leaving jobs over the year. The turnover rate has been increasing steadily by 7.6 percentage points since 2012/13.

However, the report makes it clear that the majority of these leavers don’t leave the adult social care sector and  67% of recruitment in social care is from other roles within the sector. 
The vacancy rate in adult social care has risen by 2.5 percentage points between 2012/13 and 2017/18 and the report suggests that the sector is struggling to keep up with demand as the population ages, with an estimated vacancy rate of 8.0%. 

Workforce demographics and nationalities

The average age of a worker was 43 years old and a quarter were over 55 years old (320,000 jobs) and therefore, from a workforce planning perspective, this group could retire within the next ten years.  Females made up the majority of the workforce (82%), with 18% being male.

Around 83% of the adult social care workforce were British, 8% (104,000 jobs) had an EU nationality and 10% (129,000 jobs) had a non EU nationality. Therefore, on average, the adult social care sector had a greater reliance on non-EU than EU workers. The result of the EU referendum appears, so far, 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. 

Pay and qualifications 

Care worker hourly pay in the independent sector increased by 5.2% (39p) between 2016/17 and 2017/18 to £7.89. Prior to the introduction of the National Living Wage their pay had increased by an average of 1.9% (13p) per year between September 2012 and March 2016.

Over two thirds (68%) of direct care staff, who had started in the sector since January 2015, had engaged with the Care Certificate (achieved, partially completed or working towards). 
Around half (50%) of care workers held a relevant adult social care qualification (49% held a qualification at level 2 or higher). Also, around four in five (84%) senior care workers held a relevant adult social care qualification at level 2 or above.

Workforce projections 

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 2017 and 2035, an increase of 40% (650,000 jobs) would be required by 2035. 

The population aged 75 and over is forecast to grow at a faster rate than those aged 65-74, and if the workforce increases proportionally to this demographic then a 59% (950,000 jobs) increase would be required.


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