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To expand our understanding of the challenges and opportunities in social care, The King’s Fund is undertaking a major new piece of research focusing on the young people who may make up the next generation of the social care workforce.

Why we are doing this project

The workforce is a key priority for social care, with very high levels of vacancies that have a profound impact on the people who use, provide and commission services, as well as on partners, such as the NHS.

Social care has a particular problem recruiting and retaining younger staff. Younger people make up only 8 percent of all staff and 11 per cent of care workers. The average age of those joining the social care workforce is 35.3. Those who do join the sector at a younger age leave their roles early: in 2021/22, turnover rates among those under 20 was 53 per cent and for those aged 20–29 it was 43 per cent.

The government and social care sector workforce body Skills for Care recognise the problem: they are currently working with social care employers to develop initiatives encouraging younger people to join, and remain, in the adult social care sector.

To expand our understanding of the challenges and opportunities in social care, The King’s Fund is undertaking a major new piece of research focusing on the young people who may make up the next generation of the social care workforce. This work will build on previous research (commissioned by The Prince’s Trust) to fill the gap in evidence about young people who are employed in the health and care workforce more broadly.

This new project will provide analysis, insight and recommendations for providers and policymakers that helps answer the central question: how can the social care sector most effectively recruit and retain younger workers?

Project outputs

  • Where's the Z in ‘social care workforce’?

    Under-25s – the so called ‘Generation Z’ – only make up a small proportion of the social care workforce. What are the reasons for this and is the sector able – or even willing – to chan...

  • Recruiting and retaining more young people into the adult social care workforce slidepack

    Social care has a particular problem recruiting and retaining younger staff. This slidepack delves into the data from our Young people in the adult social care workforce project.

What we are doing

We want to understand how social care can most effectively recruit and retain staff under the age of 25. The focus will be on non-registered staff, particularly care workers and support workers. It will explore issues including:

  • the size and distribution of the current under-25 workforce in adult social care

  • routes into adult social care for young people

  • the experience of young people working in adult social care and the experience of providers in employing them

  • the attitudes and experiences of young people (‘Gen Z’) in the various domains of their lives and whether these affect their willingness or ability to work in adult social care

  • perceived relevance and significance of age in the social care workforce, including among users of services

  • efforts to recruit and retain young people in adult social care.

The research will consist of three phases:

1. A scoping phase to orientate ourselves within the world of ‘Gen Z’ and adult social care. This includes:

  • a literature review to understand the demographic, attitudinal and experiential characteristics of this generation of young people as well as their perceptions and experiences of working in social care and education

  • detailed analysis of social care workforce data

  • in-depth interviews with stakeholders across a range of sectors to attain a broad but authoritative vantage point of this landscape.

2. Qualitative research to dive deeper into the perceptions and experiences of a number of different groups, including:

  • young people currently working in adult social care

  • young people in education studying towards a health/social care qualification

  • providers of adult social care services

  • people who draw on social care services.

3. Our approach and thinking will be shaped and challenged throughout by a young people’s reference group.

Key milestones

The research started in May 2023 and the final report is expected to be published in spring 2024. We plan to publish blogs and share emerging findings as the project unfolds.

Ways to get involved

  • In-depth interviews with stakeholders across a range of sectors to enhance our understanding of young people in relation to adult social care: if you would like take part in this work, please contact Simon Bottery at [email protected].

Project team