The latest report from Skills for Care reveals the significant impact the pandemic has had on both the short and long-term challenges faced by the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The annual ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report produced by Skills for Care was released yesterday – Wednesday 13th October 2021. The report is based on data provided by sector employers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) and it reveals the significant impact the pandemic had on both the short and long term challenges faced by the workforce. 

The impact of the pandemic to the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce

Whilst vacancy rates decreased initially during the pandemic in 2020/21 from an 8% pre covid rate down to 6.2% between April 2020 – July2021, the rate has since jumped back over their pre pandemic levels to 8.2% in August 2021.

The pandemic, not surprisingly also had a huge impact on the number of sickness days taken in the Adult Social Care Workforce, with the number of sickness days nearly doubling over the course of the pandemic - an average of 9.5 days lost were lost to sickness in 2020/21 compared to 5.1 days before the pandemic. In total, around six million extra days were lost to sickness than in the year before Covid.

The steady shift from care homes to care at home services continues and has been accelerated by the pandemic.

In 2020/21 the number of adult social care jobs increased by 2.8% (45,000 jobs). The vast majority of this increase was in domiciliary care services which increased by 7.4% (40,000 jobs).

Occupancy rates of care homes also fell during the pandemic from 86% pre-covid to 77% in March 2021.

Staff turnover rates across the sector remain high, at 28.5% in 2020/21. Turnover had decreased during the pandemic however since March 2021 many employers report that retention is now more difficult than before the pandemic.

Increase in Care Worker hourly pay rate however experienced care workers now only receive 6p more an hour than a care worker with less than one years’ experience.

The National Living Wage (NLW) has contributed to a 6% increase in the median nominal care worker hourly rate from March 2020 to March 2021. However, employers have found it more difficult to maintain differentials for more experienced workers, care workers with five plus years’ experience in the sector are paid just 6p (+1%) more per hour than care workers with less than one year of experience.

Size of the Adult Social Care Workforce and Sector

The report also included important data on the size of the Adult Social Care Workforce and Sector. The report found:

  • The number of people working in adult social care was estimated at 1.54m as at 2020/21.
  • The number of adult social care jobs in England as at 2020/21 was estimated at 1.67 million – this has increased by around 2.8% (45,000 jobs) between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
  • An estimated 17,700 organisations were involved in providing or organising adult social care in England as at 2020/21. Those services were delivered in an estimated 39,000 establishments.

Commenting on this report, Skills for Care CEO 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.

Social care is fundamental infrastructure in our communities, it allows people in our families, our friends and people in our communities to be supported to live the lives they choose. And the workforce in social care are the people that provide that support every day, in every single community.

The workforce is so important but we know from speaking to employers that the pandemic has had a huge impact on people working in social care. The rich data from this authoritative annual report confirms this pressure, as well as showing us longer term trends in adult social care.

We’re grateful to all the employers who continued to submit their data to ASC-WDS in challenging times, and this report is just one way we will use it to make sure we can create a sustainable workforce as we enter a period of reform for adult social care.

You can read Skills for Care’s key findings of the report and access the full report here