Skills for Care

How international recruitment can support the social care sector

27 Jul 2022

5 min read

  • Recruitment
  • Policy

Jeanine Willoughby and Amanda Ashworth, project managers for workforce capacity and transformation at Skills for Care, look at how recruiting from overseas can support social care providers and the realities of how it’s being used.

With an estimated 165,000 roles in the adult social care sector vacant across England, it was a welcome development when the roles of social care worker, care assistant and home care worker were temporarily added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in February this year.

The SOL can make it easier for employers to recruit workers from abroad but five months later, provider time and capacity to pursue this route remains a very real issue. For some employers, it’s simply a step too far, and yet there are social care providers successfully recruiting from overseas. How do they do this?

For employers thinking of recruiting from overseas, we highly recommend starting with the Local Government Association’s ‘Overseas recruitment bite-size guide for social care providers in England’ designed to support social care providers to explore and maximise opportunities that overseas recruitment offers. It’s not too lengthy, very clearly spells out important considerations from the outset, and signposts to more detailed official guidance such as the code of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel in England and a list of recruitment agencies that have signed up to this code of practice.

For those employers making it work, international recruitment is one part of their long-term workforce plan. Successful providers always have an eye on tomorrow whilst also exploring more immediate solutions. You can find out more about operational workforce planning in our guide. Find out how care providers Country Court and Askham recruited from overseas in our case studies.

The journey doesn’t end once you’ve signed up your recruits. Responsible employers will want to support all employees to feel as welcome as possible – for overseas staff, that might include additional pastoral support such as help finding accommodation or settling into the local community. Partnering with local support organisations with experience in pastoral support can be a great way to achieve this.

Overseas recruitment is not for everyone and it isn’t a quick fix. It’s a serious commitment that places significant responsibilities on you, the employer.

With the Shortage Occupation List due to be reviewed in February 2023, the sector faces a stark choice – use it or potentially lose it. If demand isn’t there from employers, care worker roles may not remain on the list. Which is fine if employers have genuinely had the opportunity to consider the pros and cons of recruiting from overseas. But if this is actually about employers not having capacity to even think about international recruitment, let alone apply, this could be a missed opportunity for the sector.


Find more information and resources about international recruitment.

Find more recruitment support with our #BuildingYourWorkforce spotlight.

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Update - Our pledge supporting full and equal contribution at events from people who draw on social care

Involving people who draw on care and support in recruitment