Adult social care vocational qualifications

Group learning session

All staff working in adult social care should be able to take part in learning and development so they can carry out their role effectively and deliver high quality care.

Investment in qualifications brings a wide range of benefits. As a sector we need to raise ambitions for a skilled workforce demonstrated through qualification achievements.

Adult social care qualifications have been developed by Skills for Care in partnership with employers and awarding organisations to meet the needs of people who need care and support.

The qualifications provide a flexible ‘mix and match' approach to meet the different needs of the workforce. There is a wide range of units that make up qualifications that reflect what workers should 'know' and 'do'.

To help get to grips with the qualifications and units available Skills for Care has developed the Skill Selector – an interactive online tool for learners, employers and learning providers.

You can access all the individual units from our Skill Selector


There are three sizes of qualifications:

the larger diplomas demonstrate professional competence in the social care sector and the smaller awards and certificates demonstrate knowledge or competence in specific areas.

The qualifications are available in three categories.

Entry - for those new to the sector or interested in starting a career in social care.

Occupational competence  

  • Level 2 and 3 Diplomas in Health and Social Care that have replaced the Health and Social Care NVQs. There are options to take a generic pathway or a specialist dementia or learning disability pathway.
  • The Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services which has replaced the Level 4 Leadership and Management in Care Services NVQ and the Level  4 Health and Social Care NVQ qualifications.

Continuing professional development – there are awards and certificates to allow learners to tailor their learning to their job role.

The Level 4 Diploma in Adult Care enables experienced staff to develop their skills and specialisms. You can find our more about this new qualification and it's framework here.  

We’ve created a guide featuring all the current adult social care qualifications and standards recommended by us in more detail: Guide to qualifications in adult social care

For more information on these qualifications and to view the individual units visit the Skill Selector.

Find details of awarding organisations that offer the qualifications here.

If you think there are gaps in the units or qualifications available please complete this form and return to:

Quality service - completion of qualifications develops a professional culture within an organisation which leads to highly skilled and competent workers providing high quality care and support.

Safety - training and qualifications in the key areas of health and safety provide reassurance about workers confidence and competence.

Value for money - it is in the interest of both the organisation and individual staff that employers make the most of their potential and realise the benefits. Qualification achievements give considerable added value and assist workforce planning in the organisation.

Retention - workers who receive structured learning and development feel valued and supported and are more likely to remain in their post. This can reduce staff turnover meaning less spend on recruiting new staff.

Marketability - A qualified workforce is flexible, inspired and more able to respond to change. Customer confidence and satisfaction is increased and the reputation of the organisation is enhanced.

Skills for Care and Development, awarding organisations and Skills for Health have agreed assessment principles to ensure a consistent approach to elements of assessment which require further interpretation and definition.

The Sector Skills Council expects awarding organisations to use judgment in identifying individuals who are appropriately qualified to make assessment decisions. 

Employers can apply for funding for qualifications through the Workforce Development Fund (WDF). This is a stream of funding from the Department of Health disseminated by Skills for Care, with the aim of supporting the achievement of qualification units and continuing professional development of staff in the adult social care sector.

You can find out which units are eligible for funding here, and details on how to apply here

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