A brief examining the demands that will be placed on the care workforce over the coming decades

This report reviews the state of the adult social care workforce and how it may have to evolve to meet the challenges it is likely to face over the coming decade. This report was supported by Anchor.

The Future Care Workforce finds that the adult social care sector in England will need to add approximately 1 million workers by 2025 in response to population ageing and the implied increase in the numbers of people with disabilities. The workforce will also have to be increasingly diverse in order to deliver a more personalised service to those in need of care and support. 

While there is evidence of good practice across the care workforce, there are a number of persistent challenges which could prevent the sector from evolving as required over the next decade. Many of these challenges are likely to be exacerbated by continued fiscal consolidation, which has resulted in local authorities reducing their expenditure on care services. These challenges include:  

  • Workers are typically low paid and there is evidence of some providers curtailing minimum wage laws.
  • While working in the care sector can be rewarding it can also be emotionally challenging. The vast majority of care workers have faced verbal abuse (93%) and a significant proportion physical abuse (53%).
  • Staff turnover is generally high, with higher staff turnover linked to an increased chance of death for those in care.
  • The prevalence of training and qualifications across the sector is low adding to the perception that there are few learning and development opportunities.
  • Women make up the vast proportion of the care workforce (80%) and there is also a high proportion of non-British workers (18.2%). It will be difficult to meet expected demand for care if recruitment focuses solely on these demographic groups.  

In order to meet these challenges, this report makes a numbers of recommendations including:

  • While the funding of adult social care is beyond the scope of this report, it is clear that government funding must rise in line with the needs of the population to ensure that more individuals do not slip through the net and receive the care and support they deserve.
  • The abuse of national minimum wage regulations is clearly unacceptable. But rather than just penalising the guilty providers ex post, we must identify and address the underlying causes of this at an industry-wide level to prevent it from occurring in the first place. 
  • Reducing staff turnover is not just about pay and terms of employment, but also about ensuring that employees have the right support structures in place to drive career development as well as supporting them through times of stress or abuse in the workplace.
  • As recommended by the Cavendish Review, a central quality assurance mechanism is required to verify the qualifications of care workers who undertake learning and development with different providers. Being able to take your qualifications with you from one employer to the next is a crucial part of building a social care profession.
  • Men, older workers, the unemployed and the underemployed can all play a big role in filling the potential supply gap. In order to entice these individuals into the care sector, providers will need to use innovative promotional campaigns to address persisting stereotypes and target underrepresented groups.
  • The care sector must learn from examples of best practice both from within the sector as well as from other low pay sectors to identify how it can improve staff morale and retention through relatively low cost measures.

Author: Ben Franklin

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