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There are more care homes under pressure than ever because of the high level of turnovers and vacancies in the sector. It’s a problem that will only get worse with 85-year-olds becoming more common.

We are living in an aging world. Due to advances in healthcare and falling fertility rates, the number of people over 65 is expected to rise by 40% by 2035. This is driving up the demand for social services. However, the sector is not equipped to handle the problem. There are over 110,000 vacant positions and a turnover rate of 30.7%.

This shortage means that there aren’t enough care workers to respond effectively to the needs of patients.  All care settings be it care homes, dom care or assisted living are facing a staffing crisis. How can they address this problem? This article will explore the main causes of staff shortages at care homes and how the industry can encourage loyalty and increase recruitment.

Care home staff shortages: Why?

The institute of IHSCM’s Director Adam Purnell has produced a People Plan for Social Care (chaired by Palvi Dodhia, Serene Care, Jasmeet Rai (RCH) and Joan Bothma, Care Point & ADASS. The report address’s the main reasons for these issues by hearing from the leaders working in the sector.

The main causes of these vacancies such as:

  1. Perception of Social Care Roles
  2. Recruitment
  3. Retention and Wellbeing
  4. Training
  5. Pay and Conditions

Perception of social care roles

Social care is fragmented and does not have a single voice. The lack of professional recognition, along with many other issues such as pay, have created the perception that the sector is populated by unskilled people with no career aspirations. This is far from the truth. There are so many overlap between those working in social care and NHS/Health doing somewhat identical roles at times.

There is not enough information about career options or clear career paths, so it is difficult to understand the many roles available in social care.

The media portrayal of social care is dominated by scandals and negativity and that does that help the industry. This, coupled with a lack of positive stories to the general population, makes it appear as though the sector is ‘failing’, in dire need of fixing, and ‘the job you should take if there’s no other’.

However, there needs to be a change in education from the public perspective. Not just within the sector but also how we educate people outside the sector. This will require changes in pop culture, news, media, and political perceptions. This will also need those working in the sector to keep promoting all the amazing work that is regularly being done by the sector.


96% of care workers feel that their work has a positive impact on people’s lives. However, this sector is still struggling with a negative image. This is one of the most effective ways that care homes can increase their recruitment. There are many tools to help you address this negative image, including a national campaign to recruit.

Recruitment in social care will not be a quick fix but there are various avenues that could be explored to improve the situation.  However, the introduction of mandatory vaccination only for social care has also limited the appeal to the sector. By calling it mandatory, it is implying that there is something wrong with the vaccine for it to be mandated.

There is much work to be done including: reducing the turnaround of DBS applications, leadership support programs to be introduce, coproduce central government campaigns with social care providers to name a few.

Retention and Wellbeing

The People Plan has demonstrated that even if social service providers are successful at recruiting, there are still significant obstacles to retaining staff and decreasing turnover. We will lose our hardworking workforce if we don’t provide the support they require.  Already, we are seeing this with registered managers.

It will be hard to retain the workforce if they are not the right support systems. Low pay and poor financial opportunities were the most frequent feedbacks, especially when considering the skills and responsibilities required to be a care professional. It is important to consider the mental, physical, and emotional health of the workforce. People often leave social care because of physical injury or the physical aspect of caring. The current situation is not all bad. Providers have stated that retention can be relatively easy if the culture and structure are in place.

Retention can increase or improve through large sector-wide changes. However, it is obvious that the sector is dominated by large providers and individual providers, so there are many obstacles to overcome in order to achieve these outcomes.


While it is generally accepted that social workers need to be trained to fulfil their duties in safe and effective ways, many feel that there is too much compulsory training that dominates the time managers and other care professionals have to refresh annually.

Providers have had to adapt to online learning and agreed that an exclusive focus on eLearning was becoming detrimental to the overall delivery and acceptance of the sector as a professional. This has made it harder to provide qualitative training. Providers’ perceptions of social care training are that it is not widely recognised or standardised. Providers want to make sure that their staff are capable of supporting the people they serve, but the current system is not allowing this to happen.

It’s crucial to promote both internal and external opportunities within your organization in order to avoid losing the best staff members. Show your staff that you are able to provide a rewarding and fulfilling career in care, whether it’s through ongoing personal development, management roles, or specialist roles.

Social care is a profession that requires training. It shouldn’t be a barrier for good care. Instead, it should promote and allow outstanding care and not negatively impact the morale of employees or place services under additional pressure.

Pay and Conditions

Social care’s inability to attract new talent has been frequently cited by those who work in the sector. Low pay and a lack of benefits have given a false impression that the sector has a low-skilled workforce. Unfair to Care’s July 2021 reports confirmed that care work is highly-skilled work. However, it also revealed that social care professionals would be paid 39% more if they had the same skills and responsibilities in public-funded positions.

The current pay and benefits situation for social care workers is complicated and deeply rooted. While there is recognition that many providers want to raise their wages and provide sufficient benefits to their workers, due to the high levels of care subsidised by the government at insufficient rates, their financial resources are limited by the fees that local authority and government pay. This is due to the strict statutory rules local authorities must follow. Social care is still dependent on private payers for sustainable income because of the continuing shortage in funding. In real terms, this has reduced the amount of money local authority contract providers can earn. To keep their services in business and provide care for the people they support, they are required to squeeze every last drop of revenue. This results in a decrease in the pay of talented, committed workers and encourages further de-skilling.

This is a time to celebrate the amazing work done by the industry especially in the last 2 years during the pandemic and remind everyone that social care is a fantastic place to work.

To read the full report please refer to

For an organisation that really value their staff please visit our website.

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