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Nov 17

The final piece of the jigsaw

Posted: 27 November 2017

Will FentonWill Fenton, Project Manager - Workforce Intelligence               

I started working with adult social care data just as the NMDS-SC was established over ten years ago.

Since then the NMDS-SC has helped us move from a position of knowing very little about the adult social care workforce to having a really detailed picture that informs policy and planning at both a local and national level. It’s a journey I’m proud to have played a part in.

Until recently, however, there has still been a significant piece of the workforce data jigsaw missing - individuals employing their own staff and their personal assistants.

Collecting information on the size of this part of the workforce was always going to be a real challenge. Individual employers generally only employ a few people and fly under the radar of most business registers and official labour market statistics.

In 2013 we started collecting data from local authorities about what people receiving direct payment were spending it on. This research helped us estimate that by 2016 around 70,000 people were directly employing their own staff via this route and that they employed 145,000 personal assistant jobs between them.

A data desert

Given the size of this part of the sector and the potential for the workforce to look quite different to that of traditional adult social care services it was clear that a data collection was needed. The only problem was how… There isn’t a central list of who they are, and even if we could get in touch with them how would we persuade them to spend their time completing a questionnaire?

It was at this point that we decided to partner with two national organisations that provide support to people receiving direct payments. They were both in regular contact with people employing their own staff and shared our view that data was needed on this part of the sector if it was going to be properly represented in policy discussions and decision making. The same case we made when the questionnaires went out; “have your voice heard”.

A successful survey

The response rate to the questionnaires was fantastic, much better than we’d expected. We surveyed around 10,000 employers and achieved a 10% response rate (which anyone who has run a survey with limited incentives will know is well above average) giving us over 1,000 records to work with.

The results were fascinating. Some of the issues (such as retention) faced by traditional employers were not as common for individual employers. There were also some interesting contrasts between PAs who were a family/friend of their employer and those who were not.

The report can be found here, and I think it’s well worth a read for anyone interested in individual employers and personal assistants.

So was this the final piece of the jigsaw? With how large, diverse and fast changing adult social care is there’s always going to be areas for improvement but it certainly was a large and key piece that was missing. There’s still more we’re planning to do as well; the current sample allows us to provide England level statistics for this part of the sector but we hoping to build on our success and scale this survey up to provide local insight.

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