200,000 workforce gap in adult social care, research finds

According to research conducted by the Independent Age (IA) and the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK), the adult social care sector in England faces a staff gap of 200,000 due to restrictions on immigration and a failure to attract British employees. 

The IA and ILC-UK report ‘Moved to Care’ examined the size, shape and scope of the care workforce in England and found that one in 20 positions in adult social care are currently unfilled, nearly twice the vacancy rate in the UK’s overall labour force. 

The lack of filled positions combined with an increasingly aging population and reduced funding is placing significant pressure on social care. 

The report suggests one in five adult social care workers are born outside of the UK, including 150,000 working in residential care homes and 81,000 working in adult domiciliary care. 

The data revealed Greater London as particularly reliant on migrant care workers, with 59 per cent born abroad. 

The IA and ILC-UK study concludes by making a number of recommendations aimed at managing the workforce gap. These include: investing in training, apprenticeships and career development to make adult social care an attractive career choice for UK born workers; adding highly skilled roles in the adult social care sector - such as therapist and social worker - to the Shortage Occupation List, making them easier for employers to recruit from overseas; and allowing low-skilled migrant workers to enter the social care workforce by opening up the Tier 3 visa route.

Simon Bottery, director of policy at IA, said: “Without action, there is a real risk of care services worsening as providers fail to fill job vacancies and staff struggle to cope with increasing demand. That can only be bad news for the older people who rely on these services to carry out basic tasks like eating and dressing.

“We need to recognise the current reliance of social care on migrant workers and make it easier for them to work here but also look to the sector’s longer-term future. The government must use the upcoming Spending Review to invest in social care so it can attract more UK workers, while at the same time exploring new ways of caring for our ageing population in the future.”