Annual social care report reveals impact of pandemic

The latest report into adult social care serves as a “stark reminder” that sector bosses face “significant recruitment challenges” with vacancy rates steadily rising since the pandemic.

There's a shortage of care sector workersSkills for Care have published their annual report on ‘The State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England.’

The report, which is based on data provided by sector employers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS), shines a light on the significant impact that the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK has had on both the short- and long-term challenges faced within the sector.

Rise in care worker vacancies, turnover and absences

The data shows that, on average, 6.8% of adult social care roles were vacant in 2020-21, which equates to around 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day.

Vacancy rates have steadily risen in the sector since May 2021, when lockdown measures began to ease, and the wider economy started to open back up. By August, vacancy rates had reached their pre-pandemic levels.

The vacancy rate within the sector has remained high at above 6% for the previous 6 years, with turnover rates also persistently high, hitting 28.5% in 2020-21. Turnover did fall during the pandemic, but since March 2021, many adult social care employers have reported that staff retention is now more of a struggle than it was pre-pandemic.

For registered nurses in adult social care, the turnover rate stood at 38.2%, which is much higher than for their counterparts in the NHS (8.8%).

The issue has no doubt been exacerbated by a rise in staff absences, which have nearly doubled from an average of 5.1 days lost in 2019-20 to 9.5 in 2020-21.

Recruitment and retention struggles in care

The report shows that, since March 2021, filled posts have also fallen by around -1.8%. It represents the first time that the number of jobs (filled posts) has fallen in the sector, and as it is happening at the same time that vacancy rates are increasing, it indicates that care providers are struggling with both recruitment and retention.

Skills for Care says that it is important “to make a strong case that these jobs offer highly-skilled careers where you can progress to leadership positions.”

They say that listening to people who use care and support services can help recruiters understand what they want. They need to be supported by people who have the right skills to do so, and people who are trained and developed are then less likely to leave their roles.

Indeed, the report found that adult social care employers with “favourable workplace metrics”, such as high levels of learning and development, had lower staff turnover.

People want to be supported at home

The report also reveals that the steady shift from people receiving support in care homes to receiving support to live in their own homes has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Domiciliary care services were largely responsible for the 2.8% increase in jobs across the adult social care sector, with 40,000 additional jobs recorded within domiciliary care specifically – an increase of 7.4%.

At the same time, care home occupancy rates fell from 86% prior to the pandemic to 77% in March 2021.

Skills for Care says that reforms in the adult social care sector must recognise the desire for people to remain in their own homes.

Recognition and reward for care workers

Although the National Living Wage (NLW) has helped to boost the median nominal care worker hourly rate by 6% since March 2020, the report reveals that employers in the sector have found it more difficult to maintain differentials for more experienced workers.

Care workers with five years’ or more experience in the sector are currently being paid, on average, just 6p more per hour than those who have less than one year of experience.

Skills for Care says that social care is a growing market which currently contributes £50.3 billion to the nation’s economy.

They are now calling for the 1.54 million people who “worked tirelessly throughout lockdown” to be recognised and properly rewarded for their efforts.

They also highlight the fact that social care workers from a Black, Asian or minority ethnicity currently make up more than a fifth (21%) of the workforce. The workforce is also 82% female and almost a third of its members (27%) are aged over 55.

The workforce development charity says that the adult social care sector must embrace this opportunity to become an employer for all.

Skills for Care is committed to working with government and stakeholders across the sector on the upcoming whitepaper to develop a shared vision for a workforce “which enables people to live the lives they want, where they want.”

Creating a sustainable adult social care workforce

The CEO of Skills for Care, Oonagh Smith, commented:

“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 forwarded to seeing the measures contained.”

She added that the social care sector enables “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.”

Creating a sustainable workforce is now a top priority for Skills for Care, but Ms Smith says: “[…] 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.”

One doctor told the BBC that a shortage of adult social care workers would have a knock-on effect on the NHS this winter.

Dr Owden, who worked in a hospital discharge ward at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, told the BBC that carers needed to be better paid, with a proper career structure and recognition of their skills. He said a better resourced system would relieve pressure from the NHS when they need it most.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said they appreciated “the dedication and tireless efforts of care workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond,” and said they would be providing “at least £500 million” to support the workforce.

They added: “We are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands. This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing councils with over £1 billion of additional funding for social care this year.”

You can download a copy of The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report and an infographic showing all the key findings online.

Learning and development opportunities for care

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider. They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards designed for health and social care organisations, such as Infection Control and PreventionSafeguarding AdultsDuty of CareEquality, Diversity and InclusionUnderstanding Mental Health and many others.

Their course portfolio spans Care Certificate standards, Level 2 and Level 3 Awards and training for supervisors and managers.

They also offer a portfolio of e-learning training courses, including COVID-19 Infection prevention, identification and control.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“It is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in our communities can be provided with high quality, compassionate and person-centred care from the right people at the right time, in the right place.

“We need to recognise and reward the adult social care workforce to ensure this essential care and support is provided.

“There is evidence that providing proper training and further development opportunities can help to improve recruitment and retention issues for employers.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Skills for Care launch Day of Remembrance and Reflection

Skills for Care have joined with 20 other social care bodies in England to launch the new Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection.

Supported by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whately, the memorial day will honour the work of the adult social care workforce throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and remember those who sadly lost their lives.

The first Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection will be held in March 2022.

Twenty-one organisations came together to launch the memorial day after the adult social care workforce experienced a particularly challenging 18 months.

It is intended to honour the tireless work and huge sacrifices made by social care workers during the pandemic as well as to remember the estimated 922 staff members who tragically lost their lives to Covid-19 between March 2020 and May 2021.

Tributes to remember care workers

Tributes to care workers can be shared on The Care Workers’ Charity website, where they have launched a dedicated Memorial Wall and Thank You Wall.

Care providers, care workers and those who use care and support services are also encouraged to honour the day through other activities, such as by planting a tree in honour of a lost care worker, holding a minute’s silence or creating a piece of art.

The CEO of Skills for Care, Oonagh Smith, said the workforce development charity was “delighted” to launch the Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection, which would thank social care workers for their crucial care and support.

She added:

“As we lead up to the day itself in March, we encourage those who work in social care, those who draw on care and support, and all members of the public to share their tributes to those people in the social care workforce who have had a positive impact on their lives and communities, through our online Memorial Wall and Thank You Wall.

“We look forward to marking the day in March – a day which is sure to be one of mixed emotions as we reflect on the vital contribution of the social care workforce during the pandemic and at all times, and we encourage as many people as possible to join in and ‘Remember Social Care’ on this day.”

Meanwhile, Helen Whately, Minister for Care, spoke of the “bravery of the social care workforce.”

She said:

“Our hearts go out to the families, friends and colleagues who have sadly lost loved ones and we will take this time to honour and remember them.

“We have worked to protect health and social care staff throughout the pandemic and we will continue to support them and their families in any way we can.”

Supporting adult social care through training

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider.

They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Care home residents are at higher risk from coronavirusTheir diverse portfolio includes training awards designed for health and social organisations, such as Infection Control and PreventionSafeguarding AdultsDuty of CareEquality, Diversity and InclusionUnderstanding Mental Health and many others.

First Response Training are a Skills for Care Endorsed Learning Provider for the delivery of classroom, e-learning and webinar training to the social care workforce.

As an Endorsed Provider, FRT have also recently been awarded grant funding to provide free Covid-19 Essential Training for adult social care workers, including Rapid Induction training for new starters, Refresher Training Programmes for existing staff and an exclusive Volunteer Training Programme for all volunteers in the sector.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“We know first-hand from the many organisations we work with that the social care workforce are hard-working and dedicated to providing high quality, safe and compassionate care for those they support. They have been through an incredibly challenging time and wholeheartedly deserve this recognition and thanks.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Self-isolation exemption for care staff poses ‘significant risks’

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has warned that a new exemption from self-isolation rules for double-jabbed care staff poses “very significant risks.”

In a press release, the directors’ body said the policy shift, which means that frontline adult social care staff who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine are not required to self-isolate after contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, could bring further harm to those using services.

Changes to self-isolation guidance

The changes, which came into effect last month, mean that fully vaccinated care workers whose absence could cause significant risks to the health or safety of service users can continue to work even after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace or advised to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app.

Such workers can only ignore self-isolation guidance if they have no Covid symptoms and have received a negative PCR test. They must also have daily negative lateral flow tests for the required self-isolation period.

Staff must also comply with all relevant infection control procedures and should not work with clinically extremely vulnerable people.

The organisation’s management should also ensure that a risk assessment is carried out and authorisation must be granted by its lead professional for health protection or the relevant director of public health.

If, at any point, the staff member receives a positive test or starts to experience symptoms of Covid-19, they must stop working and self-isolate fully.

Temporary measure to alleviate pressures in care

The government introduced the change in guidelines as a temporary measure before the introduction of a general exemption from self-isolation rules for all fully vaccinated contacts from 16th August. It has been brought in to relieve pressure on care services that were dealing with high levels of self-isolation as a result of rising infection rates.

However, ADASS has said that, while it supports measures to alleviate the immense pressures placed on care staff, it had “concerns that this announcement presents very significant risks,” during a period of high and rising community transmission rates.

The association pointed out that social care staff “work with people who are the most vulnerable to Covid: older, disabled and mentally unwell people, among others.”

They added:

“These are the very people, alongside care (and NHS) staff who have suffered most through the pandemic. Our priority must be to absolutely minimise further harm.

“Our concerns are magnified by the fact that there has been an immediate change in policy with no prior warning, guidance and information about the change and how this can be introduced safely. The policy is intended to be applied on a case-by-case basis, and with a full risk assessment, but the absence of information and guidance raises the risk of blanket applications.”

Calls for urgent guidance and funding

ADASS have called for urgent guidance and funding to support the new policy, while public service union UNISON raised concerns that some “reckless employers” may pressure staff who have had contact with a confirmed Covid case to return to work when it is not appropriate for them to do so.

Christine, McAnea, General Secretary, explained: “If care workers who’ve been in contact with someone with the virus are pushed back to work without proper safeguards in place, the consequences could be dreadful.

“Everything possible must be done to ensure staff in hospitals and care homes don’t bring in the virus or take it home. That includes making sure they are fully paid when sick or isolating.”

ADASS also reiterated their call for urgent, long-term, fundamental changes to the funding of adult social care:

“Social care needs fixing. Care staff shortages, acute staff retention challenges, a low remunerated workforce, an avalanche of need rising from the pandemic – these underlying issues will only be addressed with a clear Government long-term plan to reform social care, one that gives local authorities sustainable funding, direction and capacity to truly transform lives.”

Further support and training

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider.

They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Care workers have taken risks during the pandemicTheir diverse portfolio includes training awards designed for health and social organisations, such as Infection Control and PreventionSafeguarding AdultsDuty of CareEquality, Diversity and InclusionUnderstanding Mental Health and many others.

First Response Training are a Skills for Care Endorsed Learning Provider for the delivery of classroom, e-learning and webinar training to the social care workforce.

As an Endorsed Provider, FRT have also recently been awarded grant funding to provide free Covid-19 Essential Training for adult social care workers, including Rapid Induction training for new starters.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a massive toll on health and social care workers and those who receive care and support services; they have been through so much and are still under tremendous pressure.

“Safe and sensible measures to help relieve this pressure and ensure everyone can receive the highest quality care and support are always welcomed, but it is important that the correct information, guidance and training is in place to safeguard health, safety and wellbeing at all times.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.