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Nov 21

Why providing workforce data matters to me, and the social care sector

Posted: 24 November 2021

Skills for Care’s Programme Head of Workforce Intelligence, Dave Griffiths, shares his experience of developing Skills for Care’s data collection services over the past 15 years, as we officially launch our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set.

While I was busily (and blissfully) listening to the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, and pretty much anything badged ‘Madchester’, our knowledge of the social care workforce was diminishing. It was the 1990s and competitive tendering meant that care delivery was beginning its move to the independent sector. The data collections from local councils covered less and less of the workforce and the social care ‘data desert’ was forming.

When I joined Skills for Care in 2006, the then government had recognised the growing gaps in their knowledge. The care workforce provides vital support for our communities, and we knew increasingly less about it.

It’s hard to fund and make plans for a sector’s workforce you know little about. We didn’t know the very basics, such as how many people worked in the care sector, what roles they performed, what qualifications they held (or didn’t hold), how many would soon retire or how many left the sector each year. In short, we knew very little and relied on anecdotal information from care providers to try and inform government policy.

In 2001, a report commissioned by the government’s Central Office of Information concluded that:

“So that reliable and regular information is available about the industry as a whole, monitoring of employment, recruitment and retention in the public sector social services workforce should be conducted annually and extended to cover the independent sector.”

The last part of that recommendation was crucial and recognised the shift in terms of who was providing care. It was no longer the remit of local authorities; the shift was well in progress and it was important to capture intelligence in this area.

Roll forward through to 2021 and we know that government and local policy can only be influenced by a weight of evidence. At Skills for Care, we deliver that evidence thanks to the data provided by care providers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS).

How many people work in adult social care I hear you ask? Its 1.54 million. How many leave their roles each year? Around 410,000. How many vacancies are there? Around 105,000 (on any given day). How many EU workers are there? About 113,000.

The care sector matters, and the workforce is the most influential factor in the experience of someone receiving care. Data about that workforce matters if we want to effect real change in the sector.

Now time for a bit of Sally Cinnamon.

Find out more about ASC-WDS and discover our data.