This page explains our policy position on making social care roles more attractive and competitive in local job markets – and sets out what we want to see, the current situation and solutions.
What do we want to see?
We want social care to be able to attract and keep the people it needs in every part of the country.
To do that, care providers everywhere need to be able to compete with other industries and be well-equipped to respond to new competition in the local job market.
The current situation
The adult social care market
Social care is an essential part of our society and economy. Across England the sector is estimated to contribute £51.5 billion per annum to the economy and provides 5.2% of all jobs - with a bigger workforce than the NHS, construction, transport, or food and drink service industries.
Locally, it supports a relatively higher share of economic activity in the poorest areas and regionally in the North and Midlands. With 1.52m people across 39,000 care providing locations, it has the national scale and local reach to transform society and help drive economic growth.
We know from employer feedback that the social care provider market is fragile with persistently high levels of vacancies, a vacancy rate that was almost three times the national average between February and April 2023 - and wages that have not met the market clearing rate, which means capacity can't meet existing demand.
It’s also counter cyclical. As unemployment goes down, adult social care vacancies go up and between 2018/19 and 2021/22 there was a 6.5 percentage reduction in new recruits.
The introduction and increase of the National Living Wage floor has contributed to a compression of pay progression within the sector - with care workers with five or more years’ experience paid 10p an hour more on average than a new care worker.
Local market sensitivity
Recruitment and retention in social care are also sensitive to local job markets. As competing industries offer higher wages, adult social care vacancies increase with a clear link between the lowest wages offered in an area and the vacancy rate in adult social care.
Recruitment and retention are also influenced by geography, transport infrastructure, urbanisation, seasonal working and tourism.
Social care fully engaged and supported within Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to support local social and economic development
ICSs should ensure their system-wide influence on local job market development supports adult social care, and promotes its economic contribution, social value and workforce planning needs to strategic partners both within and outside an ICS.
In addition, a long-term workforce strategy for adult social care is needed to underpin strategic workforce planning, shaping and commissioning and ICS direction in implementing.
Adaptive, localised and targeted recruitment campaigns
Most recruitment activity is localised. Employers have suggested increased competition from other sectors can be partially mitigated by creative advertising and having a good understanding of local needs and circumstances to underpin the recruitment planning process.
The benefits of working in care
Pay is often cited as key reason why social care fails to compete on recruitment and retention. Our research shows the link between higher wages, lower turnover and better CQC ratingsbut it’s also important to sell the wider benefits of working in care, how it differentiates from competing industries and steps that can improve retention.
Employees value good working conditions, flexibility and a positive organisational culture. Our position on retaining more people highlights the impact of recruiting for values, compassionate leadership, supporting workforce wellbeing and investing in learning.
Local partnerships, innovative and rapid recruitment solutions
Building on the success of rapid recruitment initiatives at a national scale, as seen in Skills for Care’s designed and administered rapid induction programme, rapid recruitment pooling and initiatives could be built at a local level more readily agile to local job market sensitives.
Working in conjunction with partners like the Department for Work and Pensions, Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities and local care partnerships, this could see an expansion of schemes like the sector-based work academy programme. Partnership working can also expand on the opportunities of working in social care through employee referral schemes (which can see 50% less year one attrition) or promotion schemes.