Care staff shortage worsening

Social care sector providers in England are continuing to struggle to recruit and retain staff, with more jobs unfilled now (8.2%) than prior to the pandemic (8%). These figures are provided by the leading industry body ‘Skills for Care’ in a report published on October 13th 2021.

The reason for this significant impact on the sector has largely been attributed to a multiple range of factors including Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the mandatory Covid vaccination status, and the underappreciation of the challenging nature of the work resulting in a heavy workload for staff combined with inadequate pay.

Skills for Care base their data in their annual report ‘The state of adult social care sector and workforce in England’ on data supplied to them by sector employers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS). This data has revealed 6.8% of roles in adult social care were vacant in the year 2020/2021. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent of 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day across England. Furthermore, this vacancy rate in adult social care has been persistently high at above 6% for the past previous six years, emphasising the systematic sustained neglect and failure to address the social care industry problems, long prior to both Covid-19 and Brexit which have had further negative impacts.

This is not helped with the high turnover rates for the sector, which remains at 28.5% in 2020/21. The challenge is not only in being able to hire staff, it is also in retaining them. One of the largest concerns is that experienced workers are ultimately not rewarded or recognised. This is evidenced by care workers with five years’ (or more) experience in the sector being paid just 6 pence (1%) more per hour than care workers with less than one year of experience. This in addition to the overstretched and overworked nature of the industry for the staff who do choose to remain, means they become burnt out or feel underappreciated, contributing to a higher turnover and a continuation of the vicious cycle damaging the industry. This is demonstrated in August 2021, with vacancy rates being back above their pre-pandemic levels.

However, it is not all pessimistic for the social care sector, with change on the horizon. This is epitomised by Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smith who has reiterated this:

“This report is a stark reminder that our recruitment challenges continue, and to help tackle that we need to properly reward and value care workers for their high skill levels and dedication. We know that this is a priority for the new Government White Paper expected on adult social care this year and look forward to seeing the measures contained.”

Hopefully the Government can address the growing concerns among the social care sector and help providers retain and recruit new talent amidst the challenging few years the sector has experienced recently.

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