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Recruitment and retention challenges within the adult social care sector 

Karen Barker   Subject Specialist, Health 

The adult social care sector has consistently faced challenges with high staff turnover and vacancy rates. This can have detrimental effects for the care provided to adult service care users.  

The turnover rate within social care is 31%, compared to the UK average across all employment sectors of 15%.The vacancy rate is also high, at 8% compared to the UK average across all sectors of 3%. 

The perceived low status, pay, training and in-work support affect recruitment and retention in adult social care. In some roles, there’s also little opportunity for career progression, which makes it more difficult to attract and retain staff that have the right skills and values.  

The challenges are only going to increase with an ageing population and more people requiring support.  

Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22%This highlights the importance of the government facing – and resolving – the recruitment and retention challenges to alleviate the negative impact on the social care sector and its service users.  

What needs to happen? 

More funding must become available to the sector to support with recruiting and retaining staff.  

Social care workers’ low pay must be resolved. The sector is classed as one of the lowest paid and without addressing this, there will always be detrimental effects to service users accessing adult social care support in the standard and continuity of their care.  

More national social care recruitment drives need to take place, with more information available about the different roles within the sector, as many individuals don’t know enough about this. These recruitment drives also need to focus on recruiting more men, as only 18% percent of people working in adult social care are male 

We also need to look at the education system to support individuals to work in the sector. Some current post-16 qualifications for social care are only knowledge-based, or only have a minimum skills-based element.  

The government initiative to bring technical qualifications into post-16 education for health and social care can only be welcomed as a positive step to making sure that learners are gaining the skills and behaviours required to work in this sector.  

The government did make a pledge to fix the social care retention and recruitment crisis, however, this has been hit by the pandemic and no official plans have been put in place yet. 

If the vacancy and retention rates remain the same, the prognosis for the social care sector and its service users isn’t good. There’s  an indication that high and increasing staff turnover rates makes it more difficult to attain and maintain high standards of care.