Solutions to the Social Care Staffing Crisis
By Laura O’Meara, New Business Manager
According to the latest Skills for Care report, in the last year, 440,000 adult social care workers left their jobs and vacancy rates are at record levels. With 25% of the workforce aged 55 or over, and demand for services continuing to rise, the social care sector is facing a staffing crisis of epic proportions*. And that’s without even mentioning the impact of the ‘B’ word, currently 8% of the care sector workforce are EU nationals, who earn well below the £30,000 salary threshold to qualify for a visa.
Sadly, the reality of dramatic pay increases is unlikely, but there is still room to cut costs and grow worker numbers by improving recruitment efficiency.
Over the past year, I’ve been working closely with a varied mix of health and social care organisations, looking at their approach to recruitment and retention. For someone with a strong recruitment and project management background, I’ve seen the same core issues time and again. I’ve also worked to resolve them, and seen the impact first-hand, with more care and support workers joining and staying, so I know change is possible.
So how can the social care industry improve the recruitment process?
Reducing reliance on agency workers is the big-ticket item here. In 2017-18 councils spent a total of £335m on agency workers, and their use impacts heavily on the continuity of care. We need care and support workers who know the people they are working with and can build relationships with those families over time. Agency use is largely a symptom of the last-minute panic associated with getting critical care cover in place – but can be cut with proven methods, including better processes and more advance planning.
There are other ways to reduce costs and streamline recruiting, by developing the structure and processes around applicant tracking and onboarding. Average time-to-hire across the recruitment industry as a whole is usually six weeks, but in most social care organisations it exceeds nine weeks, and unsurprisingly high numbers of potential applicants drop out of the process during this time.
Technology has a key part to play here too, with many service providers struggling with legacy systems that are woefully unfit for purpose. To compete with better-funded sectors, the social care industry needs to develop a connected online candidate experience, utilising mobile apps to streamline compliance. The cost of introducing such systems is surprisingly low and they can also be used to develop internal ‘banks’ of workers to fill vacant shifts, quickly paying for themselves as agencies become a last resort. Embracing new systems also helps to strengthen the ‘employer brand’ and this is critical to instilling pride in workers, boosting recommendations, and improving retention.
With investment in the health and social care sector now firmly at the top of the political agenda, social care leaders have a golden opportunity to embrace ways of working differently and invest now in the improvements needed to safeguard the delivery of services in the coming year. Labour’s plan for free social care for the over 65s is admirable, but the workforce will need massive growth to provide the extra carers needed to deliver that vision.
More information and support
For more information on the recruitment efficiency programmes Litmus can provide for social care providers, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively visit our website where you can read our case study on a recruitment efficiency programme delivered for Community Integrated Care, one of the UK’s largest social care charities.
*Statistics quoted from the Skills For Care report on the state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England published October 2019