The size and structure of the adult social care sector and workforce in England

Thumb_SizeandstructPublished August 2018

This report provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive overview of the size and structure of the adult social care sector and workforce in England.  The chapters of the report include:

  • how many jobs and people work in social care, and associated trends
  • number of organisations delivering care
  • number of services/locations over which care is delivered
  • workforce projections to 2035
  • direct payment recipients employing staff and associated trends.

Key findings

  • The number of people working in adult social care was estimated at 1.47 million.
  • The number of adult social care jobs in England as at 2017 was estimated at 1.6 million – this has increased by around 1.2% (19,000 jobs) between 2016 and 2017.
  • The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs was estimated at 1.13 million.
  • An estimated 21,200 organisations and 41,000 establishments were involved in providing or organising adult social care in England as at 2017.
  • Around 240,000 adults, older people and carers received direct payments from councils’ social services departments in 2016/2017. It is estimated that approximately 70,000 (29%) of these recipients were employing their own staff. 


  • Since 2009, the workforce has continued to shift away from local authority jobs (-39% and -70,000 jobs) and towards independent sector jobs (+28% or 275,000 jobs).
  • The number of jobs for care homes with nursing decreased between 2016 and 2017 (by 5,000 to around 285,000 jobs). This figure had, however, increased by 24% (55,000 jobs) between 2009 and 2016.
  • Registered nurses were one of the only jobs in adult social care to see a significant decrease over the period (down 9,500 or 18% since 2012).

Forecast and trends

  • If the adult social care workforce grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population then the number of adult social care jobs will increase by 40% (650,000 jobs) to around 2.25 million jobs by 2035.
  • Since 2009 the number of adult social care jobs has increased by 21% (275,000 jobs).
  • The rate of increase for adult social care jobs has slowed – between 2014 and 2017 the workforce grew by around 15,000 jobs per year compared to an average increase of 45,000 per year between 2010 and 2014.

Related reports

  • For this type of data at a regional level visit the relevant regional reports

  • To explore the data more use our online interactive tool to see the estimated number of adult social care jobs by sector, service and job role group for local authority area in England.