Last reviewed 19 October 2021

Skills for Care’s annual State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report has laid bare the sector’s growing recruitment problems.

Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth said the data tell a story of a workforce that “risks burn-out, with levels of staff sickness doubling over the last year” and of “employers struggling to recruit and retain their staff”.

The report also revealed that demand for home care has grown during the pandemic. She said it tells a story of changes to the make-up of social care “with a 7.4% increase in homecare jobs over the year”.

Homecare Association Chief Executive Dr Jane Townson said: "This key report demonstrates the value of homecare in society and its importance in helping to keep older and disabled people well at home, but we are still experiencing the worst shortage of homecare workers we can remember.”

The report revealed that from 2019–20 to 2020–21, demand for home care grew, with around 40,000 home care workers joining the workforce.

During the same period, the care home workforce managed to stay stable despite occupancy rates falling due to Covid-19 deaths and a shift in demand from residential care to domiciliary care.

Vacancy rates in the adult social care sector in England fell from 8% at the start of the pandemic to just over 6% in March this year. But the data show that vacancy rates have steadily risen again to over 8% in August 2021, so are now back above their pre-pandemic levels with over 8% of care sector roles unfilled, equivalent to 105,000 vacancies advertised on an average day.

With new rules in place regarding immigration and Covid-19 travel restrictions, the data show a sharp drop in the number of people arriving in the UK to take up adult social care jobs. Nearly 2% of new starters were recorded in January to April 2021 compared to over 5% during the same period in 2019.

In regard to pay, the National Living Wage rose from £8.21 to £8.72, or 6.2%, in April 2020. This increase contributed to a 6% increase in the median nominal care worker hourly rate from March 2020 to March 2021. This was the highest increase over the recorded time period.

The figures also showed that experienced care staff earn just 6p an hour more than those new to the role, down from between 26p and 37p before 2017, reflecting providers’ inability to maintain pay differentials between staff while delivering statutory rises in the national living wage.

For more information see State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England.