Embargoed - The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England

This page has been published early for press contacts, but the information is embargoed until the report launches on Wednesday 13 October 2021.

This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the adult social care workforce in England and the characteristics of the 1.54 million people working in it. Topics covered include: changes in the adult social care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, employment information, recruitment and retention, demographics, pay, qualification rates and future workforce forecasts.

Download a copy of the report and the infographic showing all the key findings.


Key findings 

Changes in the adult social care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Levels of staff sickness have nearly doubled over the course of the pandemic (an average of 9.5 days lost were lost to sickness in 2020/21 compared to 5.1 days before the pandemic).
  • Since the start of the pandemic, occupancy levels in care homes have fallen. There were a high number of deaths among care home residents in 2020/21 as well as a shift in demand away from residential care and towards domiciliary care, both contributing to the decrease.
  • Between 2019/20 and 2020/21 jobs in domiciliary care increased by around 40,000 jobs (a 7.4% increase). Over the same period, despite a decrease in occupancy rates, jobs in care homes remained broadly the same.
  • Vacancy rates fell during the start of the pandemic, potentially due to fewer jobs being available in the wider economy during this period. Since May 2021, vacancy rates have steadily risen since as the wider economy has opened back up. As of August 2021, vacancy rates are now back above their pre-pandemic levels.
  • Skills for Care’s estimates show that staff turnover rates decreased during the pandemic in 2020/21. Registered manager turnover rates were down by 4.7 percentage points and care workers turnover was down by 3.7 percentage points.
  • Since March 2021, the opening up of the wider economy has been reported by employers to be adversely affecting retention, with many reporting that recruitment and retention is now more difficult than before the pandemic.


New immigration rules / travel restrictions

  • There has been no evidence of the existing non-British workforce leaving at an increased rate since the new immigration rules came into place in January 2021.
  • Data collected since March 2021, as would be expected given the new rules and COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, shows a sharp drop in the number of people arriving in the UK to take up adult social are jobs (1.8% of new starters in January-April 2021 compared to 5.2% during the same period in 2019).


Workforce and sector size

  • The number of people working in adult social care was estimated at 1.54m as at 2020/21.
  • The number of adult social care jobs in England as at 2020/21 was estimated at 1.67 million – this has increased by around 2.8% (45,000 jobs) between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
  • ASC-WDS data collected between March 2021 and August 2021 shows a decrease in jobs (filled posts) in recent months. Overall, the decrease was around -1.8%, and was higher in care homes (-2.2%) than in domiciliary care (-0.8%).
  • An estimated 17,700 organisations were involved in providing or organising adult social care in England as at 2020/21. Those services were delivered in an estimated 39,000 establishments.


Workforce characteristics

  • We estimate that, on average, 6.8% of roles in adult social care were vacant in 2020/21. This is equivalent to 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day.
  • The staff turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 28.5% in 2020/21. This equates to approximately 410,000 people leaving their jobs over the course of the year. Most leavers don’t leave the sector. Around 63% of jobs were recruited from other roles within the sector.
  • In April 2020, the National Living Wage rose from £8.21 to £8.72 (6.2% in nominal terms). This increase contributed to a 6.0% increase in the median nominal care worker hourly rate from March 2020 to March 2021. This was the highest increase over the recorded time period.
  • Analysis of workforce data from the ASC-WDS shows that there were differences in diversity between job roles. Notably, there were proportionally more males and more white people in senior roles than front line roles. The root cause of this difference can’t be ascertained from ASC-WDS data alone.
  • Our forecasts show that if the adult social care workforce grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population between 2020 and 2035, an increase of 29% (490,000 extra jobs) would be required by 2035.
  • Employers with favourable workforce metrics (such as high levels of learning and development), on average, had better outcomes (lower staff turnover and/or high CQC ratings).


Monthly tracking

Monthly tracking of vacancies, total staff, occupancy rates and sickness is published here.



The state of the adult social care sector and workforce - full report