A quarter of the adult social care workforce quit every year

A quarter of the adult social care workforce are leaving their jobs each year, according to a report by the Health Foundation. The Foundation warns that pay freezes and poor workforce planning are seriously affecting social care staff retention.

This is leading to severe adult social care staff shortages with more than 900 people estimated to leave every day, the report says.

It adds: “The annual rate of leavers has increased steadily, from 23% of the workforce in 2012/13 to 27% in 2015/16.”

The vacancy rate among social workers also rose, from 7.3% to 13.1% between 2012 and 2015. The real value of pay for health and social care workers, says the report, fell by 5.8% over the past seven years, compared with a reduction of 1.9% in the wider economy.

The introduction of the national living wage for staff aged over 25 in April 2016, with the pay floor rising from £6.70 to £7.50 an hour, has resulted in an improvement. However, the report warned that this may have minimal impact on retention because the living wage had increased pay in other sectors too.

The Foundation said the market for social care was ‘fragmented’, which made workforce planning more complex. “At present there is no national statutory body responsible for ensuring that England has a social care workforce with the skills needed to provide a high quality service,” it said.

The Foundation said health and social care would need to become integrated to meet changing needs and ‘piecemeal policy making’ was not serving the sector well. “The NHS and social care will not be able to move forward to deliver sustained efficiency improvements and transform services without an effective workforce strategy,” the report said.


Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said the number of social care staff leaving their jobs “raises concerns about the sustainability of the service”.

“Retention, recruitment and morale will continue to be a thorn in the side of the health and social care sector if action is not taken to address the root cause of these problems,” Charlesworth said.

“If pay restraint in the public sector continues to 2019/20, it will have been in place for almost a decade. It is a policy that is testing the resilience of the workforce and the ability of services to improve while maintaining standards of care,” she added.

The consequences of Brexit are also causing concern as around 90,000 social care workers come from the EU. Charlesworth fears there could be major
implications for the quality of care if there was a significant reduction in EU staff.

The Foundation recommended the next government end the public sector pay cap and train more staff than will be needed to help fill the current gaps.