Addressing the workforce crisis in social care: Why we need evidence-based solutions

As you scan the news headlines, the staffing crisis in social care is hard to miss. The sector has faced long-standing recruitment and retention challenges that threaten its ability to properly support vulnerable populations. The ageing population and increased demand for services have exacerbated the problem. However, evidence-based solutions could help address this crisis if implemented thoughtfully.

The social care staffing crisis: Understanding the data

Source: The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England 2022 

The UK’s 1.34 million adult social care workforce is currently short of 90,000 staff, a vacancy rate of 6.6% – three times higher than the UK labour market average. Additionally, the demand for social care services is increasing due to an ageing population with complex needs – the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to be more than double over the next 25 years, intensifying the demand for high-quality care. The aftermath of Brexit has also diminished the pool of experienced care workers available to address the demand, and insufficient new entrants are entering the sector. High turnover rates, averaging around 29% and reaching nearly 53% for the youngest workers, exacerbate the staffing crisis.

The significant magnitude of this crisis suggests that managers are currently consumed with addressing immediate challenges, leaving little room for forward planning. Despite these challenges, new solutions are emerging for current social issues, indicating a potential transformative shift in social care.

Key challenges faced by social care providers

1. Staff training obstacles

41% of respondents face difficulties in scheduling training sessions due to planning and shift coverage constraints. Coordinating mandatory training for both new and existing employees becomes complex when accommodating individual and group sessions based on varying availability. Moreover, pulling experienced team members away from their daily responsibilities to facilitate training further compounds the organisational challenges. In addition to these hurdles, there is ambiguity about the progress of individuals in their training stages, potentially resulting in the oversight of deploying staff ready to engage in service user care.

Another notable issue emerges, with 38% reporting that employees tend to disengage midway through induction training. Given the care sector’s persistent struggle with high turnover rates, these training obstacles significantly impact recruitment and retention efforts. Providers acknowledge losing new employees during training, speculating on factors such as the duration and complexity of the training process. This raises questions about whether applicants may harbour false expectations about the ease of social care roles due to comparatively lower pay rates.

2. Job status and rates of pay

A significant impediment to the recruitment and retention of qualified individuals in the care sector is the perceived lack of status associated with the role, particularly evident in compensation. According to the 2022 Skills for Care Report, care workers with over five years of experience receive only a marginal increase of £0.07 per hour compared to colleagues with less than one year of experience. Notably, the average pay for a care worker is £1 per hour less than that of a newly appointed NHS healthcare assistant.

In the 2021/22 period, the median hourly rate for a care worker in adult social care stood at £9.50. This marked a notable increase of £2.57 from the 2012/13 figure of £6.93 per hour. Despite this increase in pay for care workers in adult social care, their compensation remains one of the lowest within the broader economy, which is emphasised by the fact that four out of five jobs in the UK economy offer higher compensation than positions in the social care sector.

3. Implementing effective staffing solutions: Recruitment, retention and career development

Ensuring the adult social care sector can attract and retain staff with the right values and behaviours is crucial. These individuals should be receptive to skill development to uphold and enhance quality standards for social care service users. The frequent turnover within the current workforce can negatively impact service delivery and care continuity. Research indicates that employers utilising values-based recruitment and retention strategies attract high-performing staff, exhibiting lower sickness rates and greater success in acquiring necessary skills. This approach may also lead to cost savings in recruitment and training, along with reduced turnover. Additional studies highlight that retention is influenced by the extent of learning and development, organisational values, and colleague involvement in decision-making.

Skills for Care surveyed employers with a turnover rate of less than 10% to understand factors contributing to their success in recruitment and retention. Key findings include:

  • A strong emphasis on investing in learning and development (94%)
  • Embedding organisational values (92%)
  • Recognising achievements at both the organisational and individual levels (86%)
  • Involving colleagues in decision-making (81%).

Additionally, research on the impact of values-based recruitment and retention revealed compelling results. Among staff recruited for values:

  • 58% were found to be more adept at developing the skills required for their roles
  • 72% outperformed those recruited through traditional methods
  • 62% exhibited lower rates of sickness and absence
  • Three in four employers reported that staff recruited for values demonstrated superior social care values compared to those recruited through traditional methods.

The social care sector in the UK faces immense challenges in recruiting and retaining staff to meet the needs of a growing ageing population. The statistics clearly show a looming workforce crisis if solutions are not implemented soon. Training, support and competitive compensation for care workers must be prioritised. Evidence-based solutions focused on staff wellbeing and skills development can help stabilise this critical sector. With the lives and dignity of vulnerable populations at stake, policymakers and organisations must work together swiftly to apply proven frameworks for building a sustainable social care workforce.

Would you consider implementing a similar values-based recruitment and retention strategy developed by Brook Street Social Care?

This approach offers a dedicated team of care recruitment experts, attraction teams and account management for permanent hires. It has been successful in delivering positive results for our clients. We believe that our values-based approach to recruitment strategy has played a fundamental role in the success of these projects. By adopting this approach, we prioritise attitude and behaviour in our care roles, saving our clients time and money while providing candidates with a first-class customer experience.

If you are interested in relieving some of the pressure in your business, we would love to discuss further. Please contact Brook Street Social Care now.