Recruiting for Adult Care

Kate Shoesmith, Deputy CEO at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, discusses the challenges for the Adult Care sector and the need for a co-ordinated workforce strategy for both the immediate and long term future.

13 December 2021

At the recent webinar hosted by City & Guilds, we heard about what a rich and fulfilling career it can be to work in the adult care sector.  It might sound trite - simply because it is so easy to say - but carers are heroes. They have a vocation that means they give selflessly to others. The care they provide is not just of vital support to the individual recipient but also their families, something I have experienced first-hand - no doubt like many of you.

But recruiting care workers is increasingly difficult. At the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, we collate a number of data reports that give us a clear picture of what is happening in the jobs market right now. 

In the last week of November, we had 100,916 live job adverts for care roles available across the UK. To put that number in context, we had 13,520 live job adverts for LGV drivers in the same week. That means there were seven times as many live job adverts in care as there were for driving.

The shortage of drivers has been called a national crisis - and rightly so. We estimate the shortfall of drivers we need as an economy is far greater than the number of live job vacancies at any one time - it's probably around the 40,000 mark.  Not having enough drivers has an impact on everyone - it affects the good available in shops and supermarkets, it affects the services industry can provide. But having a shortage of carers is also a national emergency.

When we talk to recruiters seeking people to work in the care sector, they frequently tell us that one of their main challenges is we do not have enough qualified and compliance checked carers available in the UK. There can be concerns about pay - where some carers, in a direct response to the demands placed on them over the pandemic, have made a choice to move into roles in other sectors, for instance hospitality and retail, which can attract similar rates of pay. We've also heard of people taking early retirement having experienced burnout in care roles.

To address this, we think we need a clear workforce strategy for the care sector - that brings together government, education providers and employers in care.  Firstly, we need to really understand the labour market need for carers, not just now but in 10, 15 and 20 years time - especially important given the UK's ageing population. There is no point designing a workforce strategy based on only today's population data. Obviously, a workforce plan needs to include career routeways and better careers advice to attract more people into the sector but we also need to have a proper conversation about pay rates and flexible ways of working. And finally, we need to recruit individuals the right way - making it clear what someone can expect from the job and always ensuring there is a good recruitment experience - we provide some free tools for that. It goes without saying how good recruitment has a positive impact on an employer brand. At this time of significant shortages, we simply cannot afford to lose more care workers by them having a negative experience.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation is the professional body for the UK recruitment industry.