New data released by Skills for Care reveals a promising upturn in the adult social care workforce in England during the 2022-2023 period. The annual Size and Structure of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report indicates that the number of filled posts, referring to roles with an employed individual, experienced an increase of approximately 1% (equivalent to 20,000 posts) between April 2022 and March 2023. This growth marks a positive rebound from the preceding year, which witnessed a record-breaking decline of approximately 4% (60,000 posts).
Drawing on information from the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) and other reliable sources, the newly unveiled figures disclose a parallel decrease in the vacancy rate. Currently standing at 9.9%, or roughly 152,000 posts on any given day, the reduced rate demonstrates an improvement compared to the previous year’s 10.6% (approximately 164,000 posts).
Vacant posts encompass a variety of categories, including those temporarily unoccupied due to staff turnover, positions established by expanding employers, and persistent vacancies where offered terms fail to compete effectively in the local labour market. It is worth noting that some vacant posts may be temporarily filled by agency staff.
To tackle the ongoing recruitment and retention challenges, several employers have resorted to international recruitment efforts, resulting in the recruitment of around 70,000 individuals from abroad for direct care-providing roles. According to Home Office data, approximately 58,000 individuals secured Skilled Worker visas after adult social care was added to the Shortage Occupation List in February 2022. Additionally, other individuals may have arrived in the UK through alternative means such as family permits.
This surge in international recruitment has contributed to an increase in the rate of new starters within the independent sector, rising from 32% to 34%. Simultaneously, the turnover rate in the independent sector has experienced a decline from 32% to 30%. Initial findings from the ASC-WDS suggest that the turnover rate for international recruits was roughly half that of individuals recruited domestically.
The total number of filled posts in adult social care during the 2022-2023 period was estimated to be 1.635 million. These positions were occupied by 1.52 million individuals, representing 5.2% of the overall workforce in England. Notably, this surpasses the number of employees in the NHS, schools, or the food and drink manufacturing sector.
Within the independent sector, care homes observed a 3% increase (16,000 posts) in filled positions, while independent sector domiciliary care services experienced a 2% rise (10,000 posts). Conversely, there was a minor decline in the number of Personal Assistants and posts employed by Local Authorities.
Taking into account both filled posts and staff vacancies, the total number of positions in adult social care in England during 2022-2023 reached 1.79 million, indicating a 0.5% growth compared to the previous year.
These figures continue to underscore the long-term challenges faced by the social care workforce. If the sector is to grow proportionally alongside the projected increase in the population of individuals aged 65 and over, an estimated 445,000 additional posts will be required by 2035, resulting in a total of approximately 2.23 million posts.
In response to the data, Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care, expressed gratitude to all those working in social care for their unwavering dedication to enabling individuals to live lives of their choosing. Smyth acknowledged the positive trend of increasing filled posts and decreasing vacancy rates but highlighted the significant pressures faced by employers in finding and retaining individuals who embody the essential values necessary for the care sector.
Smyth further emphasised the importance of a comprehensive workforce plan, drawing attention to the newly established plan for the NHS, which recognises the interdependency of health and social care. Aligning with this vision, Smyth underscored the need for a social care workforce plan, including the consideration of terms and conditions that would render social care roles competitive in local labour markets. Such measures are crucial to ensure the availability of a skilled workforce in both the present and future, catering to the needs of care recipients and subsequent generations.
Recognising the vast and diverse nature of the social care sector, Smyth emphasised the necessity of engaging various partners. Skills for Care stands prepared to collaborate with local and national government entities, employers, care recipients, and sector partners to develop a sustainable plan addressing the challenges faced by the adult social care workforce.
Smyth concluded by expressing immense gratitude to care providers who share their data, as their contributions enable the construction of a comprehensive and accurate depiction of the sector, facilitating the identification and resolution of its challenges.