Pandemic offers recruitment opportunities for the sector, inquiry told

Structural changes to the economy offer an opportunity for the social care sector to tap into the domestic labour market.

Giving evidence to the health and social care committee’s inquiry into workforce burnout and resilience, Anita Charlesworth, director of research and REAL centre at The Health Foundation, told MPs Covid-19 had ‘essentially fast-tracked’ changes to the economy, leading to people being out of work.

As a result, the NHS had seen a ‘huge increase in numbers’ applying to both jobs and to training opportunities.

She said people previously in customer facing roles could be valuable assets to the sector. ‘Social care needs people with those skills, but we need to train them. At the moment only 50% of our workforce has a relevant care qualification,’ she said. ‘So, we do need to invest in training and we need to make sure that social care is not a temporary job…’

Adult social care employs around 1.5 million people in England. The Health Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies project that 458,000 additional full-time equivalent social care staff will be needed in England by 2033/34 to meet the expected growth in demand.

Skills for Care data shows the social care vacancy rate rose from 4.4% in 2012/13 to 7.2% in 2019/20. It estimates there are 112,000 vacancies at any one time, dropping down to 100,000 during the pandemic.

Oonagh Smyth, Skills for Care chief executive, told the inquiry only 18% of the workforce were men and that it was important to get more to join the sector. ‘We’ve got to think about the different sources of recruitment, and make sure we’re thinking and planning that in the long term.’

She added 21% of the workforce were from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, but that this did not translate into leadership roles.

‘We [carried out] some research with 500 people working in social care from a BAME background and what they spoke about was a lack of development opportunities and racism in the workplace. So, I think there is a question for us as a sector around how we build more inclusive cultures.’