Skills for Care

Our strategy, launched in 2021, sets out Skills for Care’s direction from 2021 to 2025. It informs our work and will help support adult social care to meet the needs of our families and communities now and in the future.

Our annual review 2021-22 looks at some of Skills for Care's activities under our four strategic priorities.


Supporting workforce capability

We've been working with the sector to develop the tools needed to ensure staff have the right skills, knowledge, competencies, values and behaviours to meet current and future needs in our communities.

Read more about our work to support workforce capability.


Supporting culture and diversity

It’s vital that the adult social care workforce reflects the society we live in, that people feel included and are treated equally, and that they are supported to stay well and pursue their careers in social care.

Read more about our work to support culture and diversity.


Supporting workforce capacity

With more people needing care and support, and those who need support often having more complex needs, it’s essential that we have the right number of people, with the right values and behaviours, working in social care now and in the future.

Read more about our work to support workforce capacity.


Improving the social care system 

To build a social care workforce fit for the future, we need to use data and evidence to work innovatively and collaboratively to ensure the workforce is well funded, supports people to live the lives that they choose and attracts the right people to the workforce.

Read more about our work to improve the social care system.



Supporting workforce capability

Many roles in social care don’t have a minimum qualification or skill level requirement. But it’s essential that people have the skills and values that are needed to do the role and these skills are changing as needs get more complex.

We have a central role in qualifications and skills. Through our work with awarding organisations we can influence and support the development of training and qualifications.

We’ve revised the Level 3 Diploma in Adult Care and the Level 5 Diploma in Leadership Management for Adult Care specifications which are being developed into new qualifications, that we’ll approve before they get launched to the sector. This is a key role to ensure quality and consistency of the content of qualifications. We disburse the Workforce Development Fund (WDF), ensuring that it gets take up in the sector, and meets a wider aim to support a legacy of better learning and development.

An independent evaluation found that for 81% of beneficiary employers responding to a survey, the WDF addressed the most pressing skills gap in their organisation. 87% said it improved the quality of care they provide. 63% said it improved staff retention.

This has supported the achievement of:

  • 10,623 qualifications and learning programmes claimed across 1,527 workplaces
  • 1,116 level 2 diplomas, 1,836 level 3 diplomas and 896 level 5 diplomas, 342 Adult Care Worker Apprenticeship Standards, 484 Lead Adult Care Worker Apprenticeship Standards and 1 Leader in Adult Care Apprenticeship
  • 5,922 other qualifications including 537 leadership and management qualifications, 442 qualifications in dementia and 798 qualifications for medication management
  • 1,218 achievements of non-accredited learning programmes with the most popular being 419 completing Lead to Succeed and 147 Well Led
  • 3,483 digital modules completions. 

Of the funds disbursed at the end of March 2022, 60% of the value has been given to SME and smaller organisations.

We have 180 endorsed providers that help improve the market and supply side of learning and development because employers have access to good quality learning.

We have supported Arden University with their degree apprenticeship programme which started its first intake in April 2022.


Digital skills

We won’t achieve the improvements in the use of digital solutions if we don’t have a workforce that is comfortable using digital technology. 

A large part of our work to build capability has focused on digital skills.

  • We’ve produced a digital skills and knowledge framework that was launched at the end of March 2022 on the Digital Social Care website.
  • We carried out a digital skills review and the recommendations have been included in the NHS Transformation Directorate strategy and forms the National Digital ICS transformation plan which will be delivered by local ICS partnerships.
  • We commissioned the development and delivery of a pilot Digital Leadership programme which had excellent impact.


Regulated professionals

Regulated professionals like nurses, social workers and occupational therapists are a core part of the adult social care workforce. It’s essential that we support people to come into these professions, be developed and remain.

We’ve supported the Chief Nurse in Social Care and the Chief Social Worker on their agendas to support nurses and social workers.

For nursing, we’ve worked on the Delegation Framework, guidance on Registered Nursing Associates in social care, and on undergraduate nursing placements with the Council of Deans. We’re involved in work on career pathways for nursing in adult social care and have established the ‘We are Social Care Nursing’ bulletin with the Chief Nurse. Regular professional engagement with national nursing stakeholders ensures social care nursing is firmly on their agenda.

We’ve increased our leadership development support for principal occupational therapists with candidates learning alongside principal social workers.

We piloted a new programme for aspiring leaders in occupational therapy services. 



Supporting culture and diversity

In 2021, supported by both the Chief Social Worker of adults, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Department for Education (DFE), phase one of testing of the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard (SC-WRES) was carried out in 18 Local Authorities (LAs). Nationally, LA’s were invited to apply to be a SC-WRES test site and 18 were selected from 33 applications.

Our Moving Up programme supported 140 leaders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to feel less isolated in their role, motivated to progress, resilient and able to support resilience in others. By the end of the programme, participants were reporting concrete changes and advancements in their careers, for example applying for new senior roles.

In the interim evaluation of Moving Up, there was a 23% increase in agreement with the statement “I adequately support my own wellbeing through self-care and self-compassion whilst meeting the responsibilities of my role”


Registered managers

Registered managers are key to quality. If you have a good registered manager, the quality of your service improves. If the turnover for registered managers increases, the turnover of the service increases. We’re the membership body for registered managers. Our networks are important as ways to share best practice and gather insight and intelligence. We have 5,000 regular members of our networks and reach many more with peer-to-peer support and practical advice on retention, recruitment, changes to guidance, CQC inspections, vaccinations and wellbeing.

We used our networks to ask specific questions around vaccinations and guidance for the DHSC over the year.

We contacted 5,826 new registered managers and managers who were falling below CQC standards, either speaking to them directly and signing them up to our enews or securing an email address for us to follow up.

146 registered manager networks cover 148 (of 151) local authority areas with a total of 632 meetings held between them.

3,000+ managers on our Whatsapp groups (circa 80% of networks have a group).


Evaluating our performance

We asked our registered manager members for feedback and they told us that membership gave them greater access to relevant advice and guidance, better knowledge of relevant policy and legislation, and they had made improvements to the quality of their service as a result of their membership.

97% would recommend membership to others, believing it to be value for money, and that it helps professionalise the role creating a shared identity among registered managers.

A survey of randomly selected managers on the CQC register found that 94% of sector leaders and managers surveyed were aware of Skills for Care. Other than their own internal HR team, Skills for Care was the organisation that people said they would come to for support.


Supporting wellbeing 

We support employers with wellbeing, cutting through the overwhelming amount of information available and sharing it in an accessible way. We run webinars and offer practical support with registered managers on wellbeing leadership and health.

Our wellbeing webinars cover different areas of wellbeing for managers and their teams:

  • wellbeing leadership
  • recovery, reflection and moving forward
  • wellbeing for managers
  • leading for wellbeing
  • time management.

The wellbeing webinars have been viewed 1,336 times in 2021-22.



Supporting workforce capacity

Social care doesn’t have enough people in the workforce now and we’re going to need more in the future. Workforce capacity is a significant issue in social care.

Our main role is to support employers to recruit and retain their staff. We support employers locally, we support local and national recruitment campaigns and we work with other careers intermediates, such as Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Jobcentre Plus so that social care roles are promoted. 

Think Care Careers (a website that gives information about what social care employers are looking for and examples of opportunities in social care) was revamped. Resources on Think Care Careers were downloaded 894,907 times in 2021-22.


Newly qualified social workers

We supported 1,311 newly qualified social workers through 174 employer-led programmes providing the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment, a key activity which employers increasingly use as an effective part of their recruitment and retention strategies for social work.



Improving the social care system

Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has funded Skills for Care over many years to build and maintain relationships and influence in social care and beyond because social care reaches every Government department.

Partnership with Government

Our key strategic partner is DHSC, but we also work across government including Department for Education, Department of Work and Pensions and MHCLG now Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on relevant work programme strands. In 2021-22, we supported the Home Office, the Migration Advisory Committee to understand the social care workforce, and the Cabinet Office to understand social care to support Number 10 policy.


Sector partners

We work across all areas of the workforce, as well as with strategic partners including Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), Care Providers Alliance (CPA), Care and Support Alliance (CSA), Health Education England (HEE), NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI), the Integrated Care System (ICS) and organisations representing people who need care and support and their carers. Our workforce development forum brings together partners from across the sector to inform our work and thinking on government policy workforce priorities. With HEE we’ve committed to promoting an integrated approach to the health and social care workforce and supporting Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to join up their local workforce planning and development for health and social care.


Policy support

Social care is about people, and all policy change affects the workforce who are central to delivery of high-quality care and support. With our expertise and experience in workforce development, Skills for Care are uniquely placed to turn policy into practice. We represent the sector by providing data and insights to government departments and parliamentary committees, and by forging direct connections between government and members of the workforce. Some examples include:

Adult Social Care Reform White paper

We submitted several recommendations that were included in the White Paper including proposals on the Knowledge and Skills framework, exploring accreditation for the Care Certificate, digital proposals, commissioning for outcomes, roll out of the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard (SC-WRES) and raising the key issue of recognising and valuing social care. We continue to work closely with DHSC, providing evidence, insights and sector forums to shape specific policy proposals. We also have a key role in monitoring the impact of the reforms through our ASC-WDS.

Messenger review into Leadership in health and social care

We worked directly with the review team and submitted recommendations on both the scope and approach of the review. Since publication we’ve co-ordinated several round tables bringing together leaders and stakeholders across the sector to discuss the implications of the review, and the next steps we want to see.

Health Education England (HEE) Framework 15

We’ve been closely involved with the development of the framework and facilitated roundtables and other engagement with the sector so that their views could be fed into it. Colleagues have worked closely with HEE in drafting the report and we plan to lead the communication to the sector once the framework is published.

CQC assurance framework

We continue to work closely with the CQC at various levels and regular stakeholder catchups, contributing to multiple co-production sessions on both their new approach to Integrated Care System oversight and Local Authority (LA) assurance framework. We also shared examples of sources of evidence for assessing a number of the workforce related quality statements in terms of the LA assurance framework.


We’ve developed strong connections to leaders in many of the ICSs, providing support and insight into social care alongside our partners including ADASS, LGA and HEE. We submitted recommendations and best practice examples to shape the Integration white paper and since publication continue to provide advice on supporting documentation, such as the guidance for developing integrated care strategies.

International recruitment

We continue to influence policy on international recruitment in health and care as members of the Cavendish Coalition and the government’s task force, and through direct submission to the Migration Advisory’s Committees and collaboration with DHSC.


Sector leadership

Social care is diverse and dispersed. There are different views and that can be difficult when you are trying to drive change. Skills for Care has a leadership role in the sector in supporting and driving consensus on key workforce issues.

We’re sector leaders and, in that role, we led the Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection to honour the social care workforce with partners. 

354 locations joined the event via Zoom with 811 viewing the specially produced film. There were 38 items of media coverage including the BBC and ITV, and the twitter promotional video received 1,934 views. People in social care took the day and remembered their own workforce. 

Our local area teams across England work directly with adult social care providers, as well as a wide range of other partners within the local health and care systems.

We’re in regular contact with leaders involved in delivering social care through our registered manager and deputy manager networks covering 151 local authority areas, our registered manager membership and our nominated individual and CEO networks. We’re able to share guidance and information and provide a space for peer-to-peer support.

At a local level care associations and Skills for Care area teams are key resources for adult social care employers and we:

  • identify opportunities to work together in accessing and delivering local projects and funding
  • develop leadership and networks within local systems to ensure there are strong and representative voices speaking for the sector
  • work to influence in health and adjacent sectors to ensure appropriate social care representation around the table.


Shared vision

Together with key national social care leaders we’ve developed a shared vision of what should be in a national workforce strategy for the growing sector. The vision as quoted from Social Care Future is that “we all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us”. We've led joint positions from sector partners on the workforce so that we can get more alignment. This is the first time such alignment has happened on workforce.



We identified social care as a data desert many years ago. Social care is a large, diverse and diffuse sector. It's important that people understand the workforce and ASC-WDS is key to that.

The insights we produce have been used to inform crucial Government activity: 

  • requirements and considerations for COVID-19 vaccine roll out across the sector. 
  • evidence for the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s reviews of workforce burnout and recruitment and retention. 
  • Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the impact of ending freedom of movement. 
  • evidence for the Low Pay Commission’s review of the impact of National Minimum Wage. 

We work closely with DHSC to produce bespoke analysis and deep dives into specific areas of interest on request:

  • tracking staffing numbers and vacancies throughout the pandemic
  • monitoring staff movements throughout the Brexit process and changing immigration rules
  • monitoring the impact of changes in the national living wage
  • monitoring diversity in the workforce.

We’ve  maintained coverage of around 50% of the sector – including non-CQC registered services and personal assistants which makes the data set unique. 

We’ve seen the webpage achieve a 162% increase in visitors compared to last year and downloads were up 68%.



Integration is a key policy priority and many attempts have been made and failed in the past because social care has not been included equally. 

As well as supporting DHSC and NHSEI on policy development on integration, we’ve been working with HEE, NHESI and NHS Employers to ensure that ICSs understand and can support social care. 

We’re engaged with over 90% of ICSs and are involved across more than 50% of ICSs as a member of the people board in sub-meetings to champion the social care voice, its value and role in ICS development. 

To date, Skills for Care has rated 26 ICSs as fully engaged, 12 partly and four have not yet engaged.

We publish regional, ICS and Local Authority level data and support workforce planning.

Access to the dataset has allowed us to identify the areas that North Lincolnshire will need to address in order to ensure the sustainability of our workforce over the next decade. The datasets workforce statistics have provided us with oversight concerning the potential gap that will be left in our workforce due to retirement over the next decade. This has had a significant impact on the way we interpret the local authority’s role in local recruitment.

Harry Palmer
North Lincolnshire