A toxic combination of pressures: Nuffield Trust response to Skills for Care report

Nina Hemmings responds to the Skills for Care report on the social care workforce in England.

Press release

Published: 13/10/2021

Responding to the Skills for Care report on the social care workforce in England, Nuffield Trust researcher Nina Hemmings said:

“Today’s figures depict a resilient workforce close to being overwhelmed entirely by a toxic combination of pressures. The pandemic is clearly still taking its toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of frontline staff, with providers reporting burnout among registered managers in particular. Sickness rates have doubled compared to before the pandemic, at an average of 9.5 days lost.

“The vacancy rate for the workforce in England stands at 6.8%. This is more than treble the vacancy rate of the wider UK economy (2.1%) and with 105,000 vacancies at any one time, is comparable to the estimated shortage of HGV drivers.

“The report shows that the changes to immigration rules and Covid-19 travel restrictions have curtailed the number of new entrants from abroad, who accounted for only 1.8% of new starters in January-April 2021 compared to 5.2% in 2019. And yet while government has made over 10,000 temporary visas available to lorry drivers and poultry workers from abroad, they took no such steps for frontline care workers at a time when around 410,000 left their jobs. Our analysis shows that other countries who have points-based migration systems like New Zealand and Australia have found they need special routes for social care workers.

“Similarly, despite warnings from the Low Pay Commission over 20 years ago, there has been no action taken to address the tiny pay increase senior care workers get over entry level staff, which has declined from 12 pence an hour to six pence – a poor incentive to keep working and gaining experience.

“While the newly announced Health and Social Care Levy dedicated £500 million to wellbeing measures for staff, it will not be available for another six months, until April 2022. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that measures to support staff health and wellbeing over winter are adequately resourced. The introduction of a cap on care costs and a raised means test have potential to be positive but they won’t secure any more help for anybody unless we keep, protect, and increase the workforce who are actually delivering care.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.
  2. Skills for Care’s State of Adult Social Care report is the definitive data source on the social care workforce in England, based on reports sent in by employers.