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Social care workforce shows 1% growth on previous year

The adult social care workforce in England has started to grow again, but the vacancy rate is still high and close to the record levels seen over the last decade, according to new data from Skills for Care.

The annual Size and Structure of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report found that the number of filled posts – roles with a person working in them – increased by around 1% (20,000) between April 2022 and March 2023. The previous year, the number of filled posts fell for the first time on record, by around 4% (60,000).

The new figures – based on data from Skills for Care’s Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) and other sources – show that, at the same time, the vacancy rate decreased to 9.9%, or around 152,000 on any given day, compared with 10.6% (around 164,000) the previous year.

The number of vacant posts includes posts vacant in the short term due to recent or anticipated staff turnover, posts created by employers who want to expand their businesses, as well as more persistent vacancies where the offer to potential staff is not sufficiently competitive in the local labour market. Some vacant posts may be covered by agency staff.

The level of international recruitment has contributed to the rate of new starters increasing from 32% to 34% in the independent sector.

Data still show significant pressure on social care

Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care said: “It is encouraging that the number of filled posts has gone up and the vacancy rate has come down. Nevertheless, the data shared by employers with our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set still show significant pressure on them to find and keep people with the right values needed to work in care.

“It’s positive that we now have a workforce plan for the NHS, which recognises how health and social care are dependent on each other. Our data support the case for a social care workforce plan, including consideration of terms and conditions to support social care roles to be competitive in local labour markets. This will help to make sure that we have enough people with the right skills in the right places to support people who draw on care and support now, and for future generations.”

The total number of filled posts in adult social care in 2022-3 was estimated at 1.635 million. These posts were filled by 1.52m people which is 5.2% of the total workforce in England, and more than the number of people working in the NHS, schools or food and drink manufacturing.

For independent sector care homes, the number of filled posts was up by 3% (16,000). In independent sector domiciliary care services, the number of filled posts increased by 2% (10,000). There was a small drop in the number of Personal Assistants and posts employed by Local Authorities.

The total number of posts in adult social care in England, including filled posts and staff vacancies, was 1.79 million in 2022-3 – an increase of 0.5% from the previous year.

The Health Foundation said the data illustrate the large and chronic staff gaps in social care – a system scarred by decades of political neglect and underfunding, and where many people go without the care they need.

Hugh Alderwick, Director of Policy at the Health Foundation, added: “International recruitment is vital to help fill staff gaps but must be ethical and sustainable, given global shortages in health and care workers, and is no replacement for the urgent action needed by government to improve pay and conditions for people working in social care.

“Care workers are among the lowest paid in society and experience shocking levels of poverty and deprivation. A national strategy is urgently needed to address these issues and support and grow the social care workforce over the long-term – like we now have for the NHS. This needs to be matched with broader policy change and investment to ensure people have access to good quality care and greater protection against social care costs.”

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