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Comments on the Skills for Care Report on the Social Care Workforce

The new Skills for Care Report The state of the adult social care sector and the workforce in England published in September, makes interesting reading. It is packed with useful information on trends and future forecasts on the social care workforce.

I have pulled out of the report a small but important few sections that I would like to make comment on.

Reduction in growth of social care jobs

The number of adult social care jobs has increased by 22% since 2009 (by 290,000 jobs). The number of jobs increased by around 1.2% (by 19,000 jobs) between 2017 and 2018. This rate of increase was slower than in previous years. Between 2014 and 2018, the workforce grew by around 16,000 jobs per year compared to an average increase of 45,000 per year between 2009 and 2014.

We have seen a dramatic drop in the growth of new jobs from 45000, per year in 2009 and 2014 to 16000 between 2014 and 2018. This in part can be contributed to the serious funding shortage over this period.

Recruitment and retention

Skills for Care estimates that the staff turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 30.8% in 2018/19. This equates to approximately 440,000 people leaving their jobs over the course of the year. However, most of these leavers don’t leave the sector. Around 66% of jobs were recruited from other roles within the sector.

This is a massive turnover rate. Although all staff do not leave the sector many do, and Skills for Care estimates that 7.8% of roles in adult social care were vacant, equivalent to 122,000 vacancies at any one time.

Given this level of turnover I fear for the continuity of service required by those who use the service, many of whom will never get to know those who provide the service for them.

Factors affecting turnover

The sector has a problem retaining younger staff. Turnover rates amongst those under 20 was 43.7%. This issue is not endemic to adult social care, with many sectors experiencing the same problem. It may be that younger staff are using jobs as a stopgap whilst pursuing education, additional training, or working whilst they consider pursuing a career of their choice. Other findings included:

  1. People left soon after joining. Turnover rates were 38.2% for those with less than one year of experience in role.

  2. Workers were more likely to leave if they were employed on zero-hours contracts (31.8% turnover rate) compared to if they are not (24.9%).

  3. Those paid more were less likely to leave their role.

The question is how are we going to keep the young? How do we make social care a better career option? Pay in itself is not the answer. Apprenticeships will help, but as I have said in previous blogs professionalisation of the care sector with recognisable qualifications for staff would attract more young people to the industry.

Qualifications, training and skills

Skills for Care believes that everyone working in adult social care should be able to take part in learning and development so that they can carry out their role effectively. This helps to develop the right skills and knowledge to enable them to provide high quality care and support.

Of all workers with training recorded, the most popular areas were moving and handling (75%), safeguarding adults (71%) and health and safety (63%).

This is not surprising as these are CQC statutory training requirements. In other words, providers are required to ensure that staff receive training in these areas. Are these subjects the most popular? or are there no other sources of training available to encourage staff to take a wider view of social care. This seems to be an omission in the report.

Of those direct care-providing workers without a relevant social care qualification, 79% had completed an induction, 53% had engaged with the Care Certificate.

No reason is given on why 21% of direct care workers had not completed an induction, surely of paramount importance to the staff and recipients of the service.


The Skills for Care Report provides an insight into the state of the social care workforce. In many ways it describes a contracting industry, with reduction in growth and an inability to recruit and maintain social care workers, and massive turnover. The consequence for those who use social care services is lack of continuity of service, and never really getting to know the staff who provide the service for them.

This situation will not appreciable change with the investment of more money. If we are to attract the young and recruit and retain more staff, we will need to professionalise the social care sector with more demanding recognised qualifications than the Care Certificate. We need diploma’s and degrees. We need academia, along with a career structure with care and compassionate staff who are recognised and rewarded accordingly for the work they do.

Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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