Theme 7: While the COVID-19 pandemic has raised the profile of the adult social care sector, there remains a significant challenge locally and nationally to ensure the right workforce is recruited and retained by making working in adult social care (whether as a professional or frontline carer) a desired and rewarding career.

Workforce was frequently raised as one of the most significant risks to the social care system by stakeholders engaging in the project. The most pressing workforce issue facing the sector is the retention of direct care workers employed by the independent sector, where the turnover rate is around 30%* compared to 13%** for local authority adult social care services. Broadly speaking, those who work for the private and voluntary organisations involved in the direct delivery of care may not have the same benefits as a local authority employee (such as pay, pension contributions or certainty of contract).

Addressing the reasons behind the high turnover of care workers in the independent sector (and increasing retention) is a key requirement of creating a sustainable care sector. Additionally the risks of a shrinking domiciliary care workforce are already being felt by a growing number of local authorities and health systems. 

Key findings:

  1. Supporting the Care Provider Workforce
  • ~In an optimised system, authorities work with private care providers to ensure their values and beliefs (promoting independence) become embedded in these organisations’ vision and purpose and that this carries through into the practice of their staff.
  • ~Local authorities support the provider market to deliver an attractive career by putting in place the right practice, processes and professional supervision to create a safe and stimulating environment for staff, whilst wrapping around pastoral care to help with the emotional demands of working in care.
  • ~In optimised systems the authority will not assume it to be the sole job of the providers, big or small, local or national, to attract the right workforce. 
  • ~Authorities use their leverage with partners to promote fair renumeration across the market and may go as far as to require it of providers.
  1. Supporting the Local Authority Workforce
  • ~Optimised systems recruit by demonstrating that the work is rewarding, and focus on purpose, motivation and longer-term development opportunities in order to recruit and retain staff.
  • ~Authorities seek to work in partnership with health, the voluntary sector and local education establishments to maximise the availability of the right skills, whilst minimising instances of creating unhelpful swings in staff base between organisations due to pay, conditions, as well as status or ‘brand’.
  • ~Staff engagement is a key performance indicator and requires regular measurement.
* Ibid.
** Analysis performed by Newton with source data from Local Authority Comparisons - Skills for Care (