Workplace pressures are severely undermining the capacity of adult social care in England to provide services and may lead to the sector’s collapse.
The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual assessment of health and social care in England found that more than a third (36%) of care home providers and homecare providers (41%) said that workforce challenges were having a detrimental impact on services.
Additionally, between January and March 2022, 2.2 million hours of homecare could not be delivered because of insufficient workforce capacity, which led to unmet and under-met needs. And about half a million people may be waiting either for an adult social care assessment, for care or a direct payment to begin, or for a review of their care.
The CQC found that, despite multiple reviews and reports, people continue to face huge inequalities when accessing and receiving health and social care, with people with learning difficulties and autism particularly badly affected.
A combination of all these challenges was influencing the financial stability and sustainability of providers.
Care England, the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care in England, said in response that “the sector cannot continue in this manner and will collapse unless it is addressed now”.
NHS and care workforce
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “This report paints a stark reality of the frontline. A gridlocked system, catalysed by a lack of funding and workforce pressures, prevents the system from operating efficiently and sustainably. If this gridlock is to be overcome, there must be an appropriate level of investment to stabilise the immediate and systematic workforce pressures currently experienced in the social care sector.
Green said the report was just the latest to highlight the need for immediate government action to tackle the workforce pressures. He added: “The can must not be kicked down the road any further; we need something to change, and we need this change now.”
The report’s findings were “a testament to the unwavering commitment of the workforce” he said.
Skills for Care workforce estimates show a decrease in the number of filled posts in 2021/22. Overall, the decrease was around 3% (50,000 posts). The vacancy rate has risen over the same period to reach the highest rate since records began in 2012-13. The number of vacancies increased by 52% in 2021-22 by 55,000 to 165,000 vacant posts. The vacancy rate in 2021-22 was 10.7%
However, the numbers of care staff arriving in the UK to work in the sector has increased in recent months.
According to Skills for Care workforce figures, since care workers were added to the shortage occupation list in February 2022 and able to come to the UK on health and care worker visas, more people had arrived to take up posts.
Between February and August, 11% of workers who were new to the role had arrived in the UK within the year, compared with 5% pre-pandemic. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people have moved to the UK this year to take up care worker roles. The Skills for Care report suggests that, as the policy is relatively new, more employers will begin using this route to fill posts once they have met requirements, such as becoming a licensed sponsor.
The majority (84%) of the adult social care workforce identifies as British, 7% (103,000 filled posts) are of an EU nationality and 9% (143,000 filled posts) of a non-EU nationality. This would indicate that, although people arriving from abroad to work in the sector are much needed, it is recruitment within the UK that remains the central issue when it comes to resolving workforce pressures.
In August the government announced plans to make it easier for care workers to gain new roles by introducing a skills passport and qualification so employees don’t have to repeat previous training.