Nov 20

Shining a light on the mental health workforce

Posted: 16 November 2020

Kathy Roberts is the Chief Executive of the Association of Mental Health Providers, the national representative organisation for VCSE mental health service providers, and Chair of the Care Provider AllianceKathy reflects on how ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce’ report helps to shine a light on the size and importance of the mental health workforce in England.

The unprecedented and ongoing extra stresses caused by the pandemic have had an impact on everyone – including those with and without pre-existing mental health needs.

As a result, demand for support has increased. According to Public Health England in April 2020 when the pandemic was taking hold over 30% of adults reported levels of mental distress indicative that treatment may be needed, compared to around 20% between 2017 and 2019.

That support is provided by a range of services such GPs and the NHS, but also crucially by the VCSE and independent social care sector. Often unseen, I was grateful that Skills for Care’s recent report – The state of the adult social care sector and workforce - revealed the size and importance of this section of the workforce.

I’m not sure how many people realise that of the [approximately] 1.5 million people who work in adult social care, 585,000 work for employers offering services to people with mental health issues. That’s about a third of the total workforce, so it is a sizeable and important element of a sector that is worth about £41 billion to the English economy.

Of that total, around 55,000 work for local authorities, 10,500 for direct payment recipients but the vast majority - 515,000 - work for independent providers.

The report also breaks down that workforce into where they work:

  • 360,000 in domiciliary care
  • 164,000 in residential settings
  • 48,000 in the community
  • 10,500 in day care

Why does knowing the numbers matter?

The first reason it matters is that we can see the scale of the work being done to support people with poor mental health to, not only get well, but to lead fulfilling lives. This workforce plays a key role in supporting adults of working age to lead productive lives and make a huge contribution to the communities in which they live.

It reinforces the argument I have been making as part a coalition of mental health organisations that, when we are making strategic and local decisions, the mental health workforce must be a dynamic and important part of that thinking.

This was something we raised in a letter to The Times arguing the influential Health and Social Care Select Committee were right to draw attention to the challenges facing our sector. We reiterated that we need to remember the importance of social care workers in supporting working-age adults, including those severely affected by mental illness.

The focus on mental health has often been through the lens of the NHS. But we are pushing to change perceptions and establish some parity of understanding about what the social care workforce can and does offer in partnership with heath colleagues and others.

I underlined this point while co- chairing the Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group of the Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce. Our Advisory Group pointed out that during the pandemic, when access to A&E, care coordinators and community mental health teams has been restricted, social care providers have adapted their services to maintain essential support to people who need it during this very difficult time for all of us.



The data in the Skills for Care report helps to identify and raise the profile of mental health workers and the important contribution – both socially and economically – that they make every day in a variety of settings or in people’s home when they need it. Let’s continue to work together to give mental health workers the recognition and reward that they deserve.


The latest ‘State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England, 2020’ report has been published. It provides comprehensive analysis on employment information, recruitment and retention, demographics, pay, training and qualification information and future workforce forecasts. Visit the website to download the report and infographic showing the key findings.