128,000 new care workers needed

The social care sector is facing a staffing crisis with an estimated shortage of half a million workers over the next decade, reports a major new study from the trade body Care Association Alliance and law firm Royds Withy King.

Key findings from the Social Care Workforce Study include:

  • the social care sector currently employs 1.47 million people
  • 23 per cent or 305,000 are currently aged over 55
  • one in three workers leave the sector every year - the highest staff turnover rate of all sectors in the UK
  • average pay for a care assistant is £350 a week, £200 a week lower than the UK all jobs average
  • 33 per cent of all nurses and 16 per cent of care assistants are foreign nationals
  • in London, 65 per cent of care assistants and 84 per cent of nurses are foreign nationals
  • recruitment of new care staff to the sector slowed to just 20,000 a year in 2016, down from 65,000 in 2010
  • 80 per cent of the workforce is female.

Charles Taylor, steering group member at the Care Association Alliance, says: “The UK has an aging population – by 2030 we will have 13.25m individuals aged over 65 – and our report sets out to explore the challenge providers face in employing staff as Brexit looms large. Our findings do not paint an encouraging picture.”

“The sector needs to recruit 128,000 new members of staff every year to replace those that retire or leave, and to meet increasing demand. Increased demand alone means that in 10 years’ time the sector needs 500,000 new members of staff. In 2016, the latest data we have, the sector managed to recruit just 20,000.

“To put that into context and based on the gender demographic of today’s care workforce where 80 per cent is female, in 2017, 126,642 young women left secondary education. Assuming the care sector remains primarily staffed by women, it would need to recruit 102,000 or 81 per cent of those female school leavers every year to meet demand. That is clearly not possible and illustrates the challenges the care sector faces.”

The position becomes that much more concerning when the sector’s reliance on EU staff is considered; 33 per cent of care sector nurses and 16 per cent of care assistants come from the EU. In London, that increases to 65 per cent of care assistants and a staggering 84 per cent of nurses.

It has been hoped that the Government would recognise this need when it published in December its Immigration White Paper, but it offered little consolation.

James Sage (pictured), employment lawyer and head of health and social care at Royds Withy King, says: “The Government plans to severely restrict access to care staff from the EEA after Brexit, despite the current staffing crisis engulfing the care sector.

"There are no special rules for the care sector despite it being particularly reliant on European staff. To exacerbate the problem, the Government has failed to adopt a coherent strategy to address staff shortages by other means.

“The study indicates that the sector has increased staff wages by up to 10 per cent over the past five years and given that wages typically account for between 65-80 per cent of a care providers running costs, this represents a significant increase in running costs. More significant future wage increases are unviable unless councils increase fee rates paid to providers.”

The Care Association Alliance is calling for Government to reconsider its immigration proposals in light of the significant staff shortages in the care sector. 

Charles Taylor says: “The proposed visa that would allow low skilled people into the UK for a 12-month period is simply not good enough. It would be costly for care employers to manage whilst further exacerbating staff turnover.

“We would urge the Government to introduce a social care visa which would only be available to people working in that sector. Such a model already exists for those working in the agricultural sector. If the Government cannot support the sector, care providers will be forced to close, leaving the vulnerable and elderly without sufficient care and support.”

A full copy of the report is available from http://careassociationalliance.org.uk/

 

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