Adult social care sector faces a ‘perfect storm’

By - Integrated Care Journal
Adult social care sector faces a

Staff vacancy rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels across the adult social care sector, according to the Skills for Care annual report.

The report, entitled, State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England, estimates that on average 6.8 per cent of roles in adult social care were vacant in 2021/21, equivalent to 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day.

Further challenges to the sector, such as high turnover rate, were discussed in the report. Turnover rates for care workers were 34.4 per cent in 2020/21 and 20.7 per cent for registered managers. Skills for Care cites staff burn-out as a major risk for staff leaving their role.

New immigration rules, effective as of 1 January 2021, signify that people cannot come to the UK to begin a care worker role. This means that employers will have to find more staff from the domestic labour market in order to keep up with workforce demand. The report shows that the percentage of new starters arriving from outside of the UK in the last year has fallen from 5.2 per cent from January to April 2019 to 1.8 per cent from January to April 2021.

Almost a quarter of the current workforce are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, increasing one per cent from last year. The report highlights the discrimination and racism which impacts the workforce and states that ‘Workforce wellbeing has never been so important. ’

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, said: “Even before the pandemic, there were very high levels of staff vacancies and turnover in the sector. Social care work has long been characterised by low pay and poor terms and conditions. The Government has committed to bring forward a White Paper on reforming adult social care later this year, which presents an opportunity to better reward, recognise and support social care staff, and to improve services for the people who rely on them. ”

“Looking further ahead, the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre estimates that over 600,000 extra social care staff would be needed by 2030/31 to improve services and meet growing demand for care, over and above filling existing vacancies. The government must strengthen its workforce planning for social care to ensure that there are enough staff to look after the growing numbers of people who will need care in the future. ”

Responding to the new Skills for Care report, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “This report highlights the sector’s recruitment and retention crisis, which trust leaders tell us is impacting on whether patients can leave hospital in a timely way when they are medically fit to access the support and rehabilitation they need at home or in other community settings. ”

“These delays would be extremely concerning at any time. But given the multiple pressures the health and care sector faces as we head into winter – including the need to tackle the care backlogs and huge demand for urgent and emergency services - it’s an even greater issue. ”

“The NHS and social care work closely together to deliver for patients. While the recently announced funding increase for social care and introduction of a cap on lifetime care costs are a welcome starting point, the government’s upcoming adult social care white paper and the Spending Review must go further to truly reform the social care system. ” 

“We urge the government to deliver on its commitment to place vital social care services onto a sustainable financial footing so people receive the right care in the right setting."