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

Skills for Care launch new strategy for ‘widescale change’

Skills for Care have launched their new three-year strategy today (Wednesday 4th August 2021), which sets out their future direction as they support the social care sector to “drive forward widescale change,” and establish a national career pathway.

The independent workforce development charity has developed the new strategy to help it work towards its vision of supporting all those who work in social care roles “to create a fair and just society where people can access the advice, care and support they need to live the lives they want.”

They will continue to work with social care leaders and employers, the government and partners across the social care system to meet the needs of the sector.

In a press release, Skills for Care said they use data and evidence “to drive forward widescale change” and provide best practice guidance, tools, resources and intelligence to support workforce recruitment, training and culture now, and in the future.

Four areas of strategic focus in an ageing society

Their new strategy focusses on four strategic areas for investment and growth over the next three years. These are:

  1. Increasing workforce capacity to ensure the right number of people, with the right values and behaviours, are working in the sector
  2. Supporting workforce capabilities to ensure staff have the right skills, knowledge, competencies, values and behaviours to meet current and future needs
  3. Supporting culture and diversity to ensure everyone across the workforce is treated equally, feels included and valued and is supported to stay well and pursue their careers in social care
  4. Improving the social care system to ensure its adequately funded, supports people to live the lives they choose and attracts the right people to the workforce

The strategy has been developed firmly within the context of an ageing society.

Skills for Care say they recognise that the way social care is delivered needs to change and adapt to support people who are living longer, often with more complex needs, and who have different expectations about how and where their care should be delivered.

They say its vital that the social care workforce is populated by the right people, with the right skills and behaviours, to ensure that people receive the highest quality care and support, in the way they want it and at the time when they need it.

The aim is that people are supported, wherever possible, to live independently, in their own communities, with the people they love.

Building workforce capability

In relation to building workforce capability, the strategy outlines four key ways in which Skills for Care will support this mission:

  • They will support the creation of a nationally agreed and consistent career pathway for social care, including learning and development requirements for each role, that employers understand and use to develop staff appropriately
  • They will use their knowledge of current and future skills needs to shape and define learning and development for the future
  • They will work with employers, leaders and managers to ensure they understand the importance of investing in learning and development, including new technologies, and have access to the tools they need to deliver high quality training. They will support employers to upskill staff and look to remove barriers to the use of technology
  • They will work with their Endorsed Learning Providers to ensure that the sector can access high quality learning and development

Oonagh Smith, CEO at Skills for Care, said they were “delighted” to launch the new strategy and “excited about the impact it will have on people drawing on care and support and working in social care over the next three years.”

She added:

“This new strategy was created in recognition that the way social care is delivered in England is changing so it won’t be a static strategy but will evolve based on feedback and changes in social care.

“Skills for Care believes that social care needs to adapt to these changes so that everyone has access to care and support that is focused on their unique needs and aspirations, now, and in the years to come.

“Equally, people who work in social care have to be recognised as carrying out a vital role in society. We want social care to be seen by the public as a professional and skilled career that has real value for people in our communities who draw on services, supported by our committed and skilled workforce.”

Skills for Care’s new three-year strategy can be viewed online.

The strategy can be downloaded in full, and Skills for Care are also encouraging people to provide their feedback, with survey responses used to inform the next stage of their strategy delivery.

Further support and training for social 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 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:

“We are very proud to be a Skills for Care Endorsed Learning Provider and to work with them to provide essential training for workers in the social care sector.

“This new strategy is a really positive step in ensuring that the social care sector can continually meet every individual’s care and support needs safely, compassionately and with dignity while also looking after the health and wellbeing of staff.”

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

Funding boost to support social care sector

The adult social care sector is set to receive a £269 million funding boost to help protect and support staff and those receiving care.

There's been an increase in domiciliary care jobsThe funds will be split, with a new £120 million fund to enable local authorities to boost workforce capacity and a £149 million grant system to support lateral flow device testing in the sector.

Announced in December 2020, this grant is designed to increase rapid Covid-19 testing of care staff and facilitate safe care home visits from loved ones, where possible.

It comes as the new, more transmissible coronavirus variant has led to a sharp rise in staff absence rates, as care home and home care staff test positive or are forced to self-isolate due to contact with a confirmed case.

Known as the Workforce Capacity Fund, the £120 million fund for local authorities is being made available to:

  • Provide additional care staff where shortages arise
  • Provide support for administrative tasks so that experienced and skilled care staff can focus on providing care and support for residents and those receiving care in their own home
  • Help existing staff to increase their hours, if they wish, through the provision of overtime payments or by covering childcare costs

Infection prevention and control guidance on staff movement in care homes is also being reinforced, with providers reminded that it is vital that they continue to follow the rules in order to keep staff and residents safe.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the fund would “bolster staffing numbers in a controlled and safe way, whilst ensuring people continue to receive the highest quality of care.”

He spoke of the hope offered by the vaccination programme, and explained:

“Many local authorities across the country already have staffing initiatives in place to increase capacity and address staffing issues. These include care worker staff banks where new recruits are paid during training, re-deployment models where DBS checked staff are trained and moved into operational roles, and end-to-end training and recruitment services.

“The £120 million fund will ensure such initiatives can continue, and help other local authorities implement similar schemes.”

Care workers have taken risks during the pandemicMr. Hancock added that the £149 million grant would support care providers with the costs associated with “setting up safe testing areas, providing staff training and will contribute towards staff time spent administering and receiving tests.”

Local authorities must pass on 80% of this funding to care homes on a per beds basis, with 20% able to be used at their discretion to support the sector in delivering additional lateral flow device testing.

Minister for Care Helen Whately praised care workers for “doing the most amazing job throughout the pandemic,” adding: “In challenging circumstances, they have been caring for some of the people most at risk from this virus with compassion and skill.”

She explained:

“Increased staff testing remains a critical part of reducing transmission. Care homes currently have access to 3 tests per week for their staff, with daily testing for 7 days in the event of a positive case to protect staff and residents.

“Care homes will have additional lateral flow devices to test individuals working in more than one setting before the start of every shift.

“Restricting staff movement remains critical to minimising the risk of transmission. In response to the government’s consultation, the sector called for an increase in staffing capacity instead of regulation to achieve this goal.”

Meanwhile, the CEO of Care England, Professor Martin Green, said they were “pleased” the government had listened to the care sector’s “deep concerns about banning staff movement.”

He added:

“We want to work with the department to ensure the staff capacity fund delivers to the front line and is suitably flexible to reflect the crisis whereby providers are struggling with staff illness and absenteeism in the same way as their colleagues in the NHS are.

“Staff are our most precious resource and we want to do all that we can to support them, especially in these incredibly difficult times.”

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 more.

Their health and social care range includes Infection Prevention and Control, Health and Safety, Dignity in Care, Duty of Care, Safeguarding Adults and many more.

Care homeA trainer from FRT says: “We work closely with many local and national care providers and know that they have been having such an incredibly tough time during the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.

“Those who work in care work incredibly hard to provide person-centred, dignified and compassionate care, even in extremely challenging circumstances.

“It is fantastic news that the sector will receive extra funds to help support and protect these dedicated workers and the people they work to support.”

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

Skills for Care investigates key issues affecting BAME workers

A recent survey from Skills for Care has found that adult social care workers from black, Aisan and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds face significant challenges with racism, progression, representation and health.

People from BAME backgrounds account for 1 in 5 of the adult social care workforce in England, but despite playing a crucial role in the care and support of people in our communities, they often encounter racism, discrimination and barriers to progression in the workplace.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also served to highlight and exacerbate existing inequalities within the workforce and wider society, and the survey aimed to capture how it has impacted on BAME workers in adult social care.

People from BAME backgrounds – whether providing or receiving care – have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They are more likely to contract Covid-19, are more likely to die as a result, and those in the workforce are more likely to report a lack of access to PPE and unfair treatment.

Skills for Care wanted to clarify the key issues and concerns affecting the sector, so they surveyed BAME leaders and managers across the adult social care workforce about the challenges they faced as a result of the pandemic.

Over 500 social care workers responded, and Skills for Care have revealed that these respondents spoke up about racism, inequality, progression, representation and health.

Three main challenges

Researchers found that 3 main themes came up when asking about the top challenges facing BAME staff in adult social care: racism; progression and representation, and; health issues.

Respondents cited institutional and systemic racism from and within organisations, management and peers and service users as a major challenge.

Workers from BAME backgrounds often felt that they did not have a voice within the organisations they worked for, and they frequently experienced discrimination and inequalities.

BAME staff also reported barriers that prevented them from progressing in the adult social care workforce, particularly into leadership and management positions. They experienced a lack of training and development opportunities and found that people from BAME backgrounds were not represented at senior levels.

There were also anxieties about the increased risks for BAME staff in relation to Covid-19, with respondents often reporting that they did not feel sufficiently protected at work.

Experiences of racism and anxiety about Covid-19 had also contributed to mental health concerns for workers from BAME backgrounds.

Respondents also cited issues regarding pay gaps, lack of confidence, lack of understanding and support and challenges around acceptance, recognition, respect and being valued.

Supporting BAME workers

Skills for Care asked respondents what they could do to better support adult social care workers from BAME backgrounds, and were told they needed to provide more training.

Covid is magnifying inequalitiesThis ranged from training for managers on the health risks posed by Covid-19 to training for BAME workers in topics such as leadership, resilience, assertiveness and dealing with racism, and training for all workers across social care on subjects such as cultural awareness, diversity unconscious bias and practising anti-racism.

Respondents also wanted greater inclusion; they asked Skills for Care to collaborate more with BAME communities in designing their approach, and to make their resources more accessible.

They also said that people from BAME backgrounds could be given a stronger voice at Skills for Care, with greater representation and more opportunities for discussion and engagement.

In terms of wider support to help them progress, respondents said that steps such as mentoring schemes, networking programmes and greater support for their health and wellbeing would help them reach their potential.

Promoting equality

They survey responses also showed that people wanted Skills for Care to undertake an advocacy role, promoting equality and fair pay across the sector.

Skills for Care also asked respondents about relevant topics they could cover in future webinars about inequalities within the BAME workforce.

Their areas of interest included racism, particularly institutional and systemic racism and how to overcome it, organisational policy and practice, equality and inequality, including pay and discrimination, progression and representation, and Black Lives Matter.

Taking action

Skills for Care are now investigating some of the areas of support raised in the survey.

They are organising a series of webinars starting this month to explore some of the issues raised by respondents and are developing a suite of guidance based on the three main challenges identified in the survey.

They’ve also highlighted some of their current resources, such as ‘Confident with difference’, which, they say will “allow you and your team to consider how well you currently embrace diversity and improvements that could be made.”

The workforce development charity will also work with a BAME focus group of 20 individuals to produce guidance and support for career progression.

They are also “exploring how we can embed what we learned across the organisation so that all aspects of our offer include and reflect the BAME community and diverse workforce. We will continue to engage with the sector to better understand support needs and this will be an ongoing dialogue.”

They’ve created a dedicated page on their website to provide a platform for voices from the diverse social care workforce and will continue to commission blogs and articles from BAME authors.

Training in equality, diversity and inclusion

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 more.

Their health and social care range includes Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

A trainer from FRT says: “It is important for all organisations and businesses across all sectors to explore what they can do to challenge and remove inequalities and to promote equality, inclusion and diversity.

“We provide training in Equality and Diversity, and undergo it ourselves. We work to ensure that training is inclusive, representative and accessible to all.

“It’s great to see that Skills for Care have taken the time to do this research and that they are putting their findings into action.”

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

Adult social care workforce grows by 9%, new report shows

A new report from Skills for Care has shown that the number of adult social care jobs in England has increased by 9% since 2013.

The adult social care workforce has grown again this yearThe annual ‘Size and structure of the adult social care workforce in England’ report found that there were 130,000 (or 9%) more jobs in the sector in the year 2019-20 compared with 2012-13.

This means that there are now 1.65 million adult social care jobs.

The report also contains projections that state that, if the adult social care workforce expands proportionally to the number of people aged 65 or over living England, there will need to be 2.17 million jobs within the sector by 2035 in order to meet demand – an increase of 520,000.

Although the number of adult social care jobs continues to increase year upon year in England, the rate at which they are increasing has actually slowed.

The report shows that the workforce grew by around 15,000 jobs per year between 2014-15 and 2019-20, compared to an average increase of 26,000 jobs per year between 2012-13 and 2014-15.

Shift in adult social care employment

The type of jobs within the sector has also shifted.

The report shows that the number of local authority jobs has fallen by 25%, or 37,000 jobs, as part of a longer-term shift towards independent sector jobs, which increased by 11% or 130,000 jobs over the same period.

There's been an increase in domiciliary care jobsSince 2013, jobs within domiciliary care services have also increased at a faster rate – growing by 15% or 95,000 jobs – than those within residential services, which only grew by 4% or 25,000 jobs.

The number of registered nurse jobs within the sector has significantly declined since 2013, falling by 30% or 15,500.

The report utilises data from Skills for Care’s Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS), which is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and includes data provided by 20,000 frontline employers in the sector.

The data for this year’s report was collected prior to the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in England. Skills for Care have advised that it therefore does not reflect how the pandemic has impacted the adult social care workforce.

Shortfall in the social care sector

The report indicates a shortfall between the number of people working in the sector and the total number of jobs available.

Although the number of people employed in adult social care also increased, the report shows the workforce only numbers 1.52 million people despite there being 130,000 additional jobs available.

The report also estimates:

  • There were 18,200 organisations involved in providing or organising adult social care in England
  • Around 38,000 establishments provided or organised adult social care services
  • There were 70,000 recipients of direct payments employing their own care and support staff

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

“We are grateful to all the employers who have contributed their data because as we start to think about what the adult social care sector will look like after the pandemic it is vital we do that based on the gold standard data in this report.”

She added that the report served as a “reminder” for all “of the vital role our growing workforce will play in any future reform of our sector and their skills, knowledge and commitment to person centred care will support people to live the lives they want to.”

The full report is available to download online.

Care workers are key workers

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national provider of high-quality training services. They deliver health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, manual handling, health and social care, mental health and other special focus courses. They can offer training via face-to-face, classroom style learning, e-learning, webinar sessions or distance learning manuals and can also offer public courses at their venues across the UK.

Care workers are key workersTheir extensive health and social care range is mapped to national occupational standards, the Care Certificate, the Skills for Health Core Skills Framework and relevant legislation and further guidance.

All courses are also based on the values of person centred care.

A health and social care trainer for FRT says: “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that health and social care workers are key workers; they provide a valuable service in this country and are a dedicated, passionate bunch.

“As a workforce, they need continued support and training to be able to continue to fulfil their challenging but rewarding roles.”

For more information about any of the training courses that FRT can offer, please contact freephone 0800 310 2300 or