Recruitment and retention challenging for adult social care services

Maree Allison

More than three-quarters of care homes for adults in Scotland have reported staff vacancies, the highest it has been since 2017, when Care Inspectorate and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) began tracking figures.

Its research found adult social care services ‘were facing particular challenges’ with 76% of care homes for adults (748) reporting vacancies.

The percentage of all care services reporting staff vacancies has also risen to its highest level since 2017. Of those that responded, nearly half (49%) reported having vacancies at the end of last year, 3,221 out of 6,542 (2021: 3,212 out of 6,768; 47%).

At 31 December 2022, there were just under 11,400 registered services providing care and support for children, young people, adults, and older people across Scotland. Just under 3,550 of these services were childminders. The remaining 7,850 services employed an estimated 189,370 staff – growth of 1.8% on the previous year’s estimate.

In 2022, 93% of services (excluding childminders) completed the annual return.

As reported earlier this month, the workforce has grown, driven mainly by increases in staff in the daycare of children, housing support/care at home and nurse agency service, while being slightly offset by a fall in staff numbers in adult day care services.

The inspectorate and SSSC’s report, Staff vacancies in care services 2022, found East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Dundee and North Lanarkshire local authority areas had a higher proportion of services with vacancies.

Almost two-thirds of services with vacancies (63%) reported having problems filling them, up five percentage points from the previous year. The research found too few applicants in general (71%), too few with experience (60%), and too few qualified applicants (51%) were the most common issues.

Jackie Irvine

‘The report highlights the extent of the current recruitment and retention challenges being faced by the sector at a time when services are experiencing continued pressure. Adult social care services are facing particular challenges with 76% of care homes for adults reporting vacancies, the highest since our reports began in 2017,’ said Jackie Irvine, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate.

‘We remain grateful for the dedication and commitment of our skilled and qualified workforce during a time that remains challenging, and welcome the recent proposed increase to care workers’ salaries as one measure to help support the workforce.’

Maree Allison, acting chief executive of the SSSC said: ‘We work closely with the Care Inspectorate, Scottish Government and others to help employers recruit, retain and develop their staff, however this report shows the sector is experiencing more significant pressures than ever before and more needs to be done to attract and retain a workforce that feels valued and respected for the high quality care and support that workers deliver.’