Social care 360: workforce and carers

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9. There are more jobs in the care sector

The number of jobs in social care has increased but the rate of growth is slowing

Adult social care is a large and growing sector in England: nearly 1.5 million people work in an estimated 1.6 million jobs (1.1 million full-time equivalents) in around 21,000 organisations, according to social care workforce intelligence body, Skills for Care. Analysis in this indicator and the next one is based on its data.

The number of jobs has increased by around 275,000 since 2009 but the rate is slowing: the workforce grew by only around 15,000 a year between 2014 and 2017 compared to an average of 45,000 a year between 2010 and 2014.

Over three-quarters of social care jobs (78 per cent) are in the independent sector – the voluntary sector and for-profit sectors – with the rest split fairly evenly between local authorities (7 per cent), the NHS (6 per cent) and those directly employed by service users (9 per cent).

The table below shows how the 1.6 million (1.1 million full-time equivalent) jobs are distributed within the sector.

Job roleTotal jobsPercentage of jobs
 1.6 million 
Direct care – including care workers, senior care workers, personal assistants for direct payment recipients and community support/outreach workers1.22 million76
Managerial – including registered managers and supervisors119,0007
Regulated professionals (nurses, occupational therapists and social workers)83,0005
Other – administration and ancillary staff such as catering, cleaning, transport and maintenance180,00011

The annual growth in social care jobs has broadly tracked the growth in the older population in England. On average, one adult social care job is needed for every seven people over 65 and every three people over 75. This appears consistent with data from the Family Resources Survey, suggesting underlying need among older people has remained static over time, though in practice the relationship between jobs and the older population is unlikely to be as clear-cut since half of the public spend on social care is not on older people but on working-age adults.

If the number of jobs does continue to grow in line with the growth in the older population, the implications are stark: Skills for Care estimates the need for between 650,000 and 950,000 new adult social care jobs by 2035. The difficulty in finding people to fill them is identified in the next indicator. 

10 …but vacancies are growing

Around 8 per cent of jobs are vacant and 390,000 staff leave their jobs each year

Industry workforce body Skills for Care (on whose data this section is based) estimates that on average around 110,000 jobs – 8 per cent – are vacant in adult social care at any one time – similar to vacancies in the NHS and much higher than the 2.8 per cent figure for the economy as whole. Turnover of staff is also high at 30.7 per cent, equivalent to around 390,000 leavers over a year. 

This is part of a long-term trend that has seen the vacancy rate rise since 2012/13. In 2016/17 the average vacancy rate was 20,000 lower at 90,000. Turnover rates have also increased steadily, from 23.1 per cent in 2012/13 to 30.7 per cent in 2017/18 – a worrying number, particularly since continuity of caregiver is an important factor for people who receive care.

Vacancy and turnover rates are high for most roles

Job roleVacancy rate 2017/18 (%)Turnover 2017/18 (%)
All roles8.030.7
Direct care roles8.634.8
Of which, care workers9.137.5
Manager/supervisor roles5.614.9
Of which, registered managers11.822.0
Senior management2.58.2
Regulated professional roles11.426.1
Of which, social workers10.215
Occupational therapists9.013.8
Registered nurses12.332.4

Within these figures, residential care has lower vacancy rates than home care (though its vacancy rate rose last year while home care’s fell).

Difficulty in recruiting care workers comes despite their pay rising since the introduction of the national living wage in 2016 – in 2018 the average increase in careworker pay was 5.2 per cent (2.7 per cent in real terms).

However, the rise has not necessarily made the sector more competitive with other industries. At £7.89, the average hourly rate for a careworker in the independent sector is far lower than that of store assistants in supermarkets such as Aldi, which pays £10.55 inside the M25 area and £9.10 outside.

And though the lowest paid care workers have seen an increase, the industry’s pay bill as a whole increased by only one percent, with 30 per cent of care workers now paid in the bottom decile of the pay scale compared to just 10 per cent in 2016.

11. It’s a mixed picture of support for carers

More carers are receiving Carer’s Allowance but the number receiving direct support from local authorities is falling

Unpaid carers do the work of an additional four million paid care workers. There are two main statutory sources of support for them: local authorities offer financial support, services and advice; a national benefit, Carer's Allowance, is available to those caring for people receiving disability benefits.

The trends are very different for the two types of support.

The number of carers provided with direct support by local authorities decreased overall between 2015/16 and 2017/18. Within this overall decline, the percentage who received information, advice or signposting increased while the percentage receiving direct payments or services fell. Information, advice and signposting makes up the majority of direct support received by carers (64.7 per cent in 2017/18).

By contrast, the number of people claiming Carer’s Allowance has been steadily increasing over this period (and, in fact, well before it), with an additional 29,000 receiving the benefit between February 2017 and February 2018.

The Family Resources Survey suggests that until 2016/17 the percentage of people who self-identify as carers was consistent at 8 per cent, which – when population growth is taken into account – means that the number of carers in the population increased. However, in 2017/18, the percentage of carers had fallen to 7 per cent, which equates to a reduction in the number of carers to 4.5 million from 4.7 million in 2007/08.

The most comprehensive – albeit dated – estimate of the numbers of carers in England comes from the 2011 Census, which found around 10 per cent of the population – 5.4 million people – to be carers.

However, all estimates may reflect the fact that individuals often do not self-identify as carers. Carers UK found that most carers took more than a year to recognise their caring role and almost one in four took more than five years.

The increase in numbers receiving Carer's Allowance will also have been influenced by an increase in the numbers of people claiming the qualifying disability benefits (see indicator 5) and by changes to state pension entitlement, which mean that some women must wait longer to claim their pension but are able to claim Carer's Allowance.

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