Care staff shortage in England worse than before Covid pandemic, study shows

On average, 6.8 per cent of adult social care roles were unfilled during 2020/21 - which resulted in 105,000 vacancies on any one day

An extra 490,000 people will need to be recruited by 2035 to keep up with the ageing population, new analysis from Skills for Care has revealed.

The new report said adult social care job vacancies in England are higher than before the pandemic, with the care sector finding it harder to recruit new workers and retain existing staff.

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The annual State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report is based on data provided by a representative sample of employers of England’s 1.54 million care workers.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Care sector bosses in England are struggling to hire new staff, with the number of unfilled jobs higher than before the pandemic, analysis by Skills for Care says.
  • Care sector employers are also finding it harder to retain existing staff, the analysis suggests.
  • On average, 6.8 per cent of adult social care roles were unfilled during 2020/21 - which resulted in 105,000 vacancies on any one day. 
  • The researchers calculate that employers were failing to fill eight per cent of posts before the pandemic.Figures show this had fallen to below six per cent by June last year - but by August 2021, the trend had reversed, with 8.2% of care sector roles unfilled.
  • An estimated 490,000 people will need to be recruited by 2035 to keep up with the ageing population.

What’s been said?

Skills for Care chief executive Oonagh Smyth said: "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 (in it)."

Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, said the report shows that the workforce is not "recognised or valued for the amazing contribution it makes to millions of people’s lives each and every day".

She added: “Each and every statistic in this report represents individual care workers and we need to recognise the very clear warning signals that the growing number of vacancies, doubling levels of sickness and high rates of turnover represent.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We appreciate the dedication and tireless efforts of care workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

“We are providing at least £500 million to support the care workforce as part of the £5.4 billion to reform social care.

“We are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high-quality care to meet increasing demands.

“This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing councils with over £1 billion of additional funding for social care this year.”

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