The Department of Health and Social Care is not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Department of Health and Social Care is not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce. The number of people working in care is not meeting the country’s growing care demands and unmet care needs are increasing, according to today’s report by the National Audit Office (NAO). 

This report, The Adult Social Care Workforce in England, considers the Department of Health & Social Care’s role in overseeing the adult social care workforce and assesses whether the size and structure of the care workforce are adequate to meet users’ needs for care now, and in the future, in the face of financial challenges and a competitive labour market.

While many people working in care find it rewarding, there is widespread agreement that workers feel undervalued and there are limited opportunities for career progression, particularly compared with similar roles in health. Low pay rates, along with tough working conditions and a poor image, prevents workers from joining and remaining in the sector.

The Adult Social Care Workforce in England

Key facts

  • 1.34m was the estimated number of jobs (excluding personal assistants and NHS jobs) in the adult social care sector in England in 2016-17
  • 2009 was the last time a national workforce strategy was published by the Department of Health & Social Care
  • 6.6% was the vacancy rate for jobs across the care sector in 2016-17 (national average is 2.5%-2.7%)
  • 27.8% was the turnover rate across all care jobs in 2016-17
  • £7.50 was the median pay per hour for a care worker in the independent care sector in 2016-17
  • 11. 3% was the vacancy rate for registered managers in 2016-17, the highest vacancy rate in care
  • 16% of registered nurses in 2016-17 who were non-British European Economic Area nationals, the highest percentage for any care job


The report's recommendations:

  • The Department of Health and Social Care should produce a robust national workforce strategy to address the major challenges currently facing the care workforce.
  • The Department needs to understand and plan long-term for the effect on the workforce that integration of health and care, and other potential changes to how care is delivered, will bring.
  • The Department should encourage local and regional bodies to produce workforce strategies that complement the national strategy.
  • The Department should assess whether current initiatives, both national and local, to support recruitment, retention and development are sufficient.
  • The Department should establish how much funding the sector will need over the long term and make the consequences of any funding gap clear.

The government has promised a Green Paper with proposals to change the way care services work will be published by the summer.

“Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.  Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the Department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 8 February 2018


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