5 Recruitment and Retention
- Social care employers have experienced considerable difficulties in retaining staff in recent times - particularly care staff that provide direct care and support - with far less issues faced with the retention of management level staff.
- Almost two thirds of social care employers are currently recruiting, and this is higher amongst independent sector employers, and those in both large urban settings and island communities. Care staff, such as support workers and residential care workers (for the third sector) are currently in high demand amongst social care employers.
- Around a third of employers have hard-to-fill vacancies, particularly prevalent in the independent sector, and these posts tend to be for support workers and care workers or assistants. Employers are also struggling to find skills in dealing with complex conditions and digital skills, as well as providing required training to their staff.
- Around half of social care employers anticipate facing challenges in recruitment over the next year. Again, this is greater amongst independent sector employers and those based in islands and remote areas. These challenges are expected when recruiting for the types of roles employers are currently seeking.
- The housing support/care at home sector has grown substantially in recent years, and this is reflected in the large proportion of employers in this sector who anticipate recruitment challenges in the next year.
- Given the high levels of expansion and replacement demand for skills in the social care sector, a higher proportion of employers plan to recruit in the next year to replace staff that might leave (72%) and to expand their workforce (50%). Replacing staff is expected to be more common in more urban settings and remote island communities, while expansion plans are greater in larger cities.
5.1 This chapter examines recruitment and retention issues facing the social care sector. It considers, in particular, the skills issues and gaps and recruitment and retention challenges facing employers, their perceptions about the main motivations behind people’s decisions to join, stay in or leave the social care sector, and reasons for the existence of vacancies and difficulties in filling vacancies.
5.2 Employers have experienced difficulties in retaining social care staff, in particular support workers and other types of care staff. Figure 5.1 sets out how frequently employers have experienced difficulties in retaining different types of staff in the past two years. More than four in five employers (85%) have encountered retention difficulties with support worker care staff in the past two years (and have faced difficulties with other types of care staff), whilst the retention of management staff is reported as less of an issue.
Source: ekosgen employer survey, n=337
5.3 CIPD research published in Summer 2019 indicates that over a quarter (26%) of UK employers say that retaining staff has become more difficult and is highest in retail and administrative support, both at 40%.
Current recruitment needs and challenges
5.4 Sixty-five percent of social care employers who responded to our survey are currently recruiting. At 73%, this proportion is higher for independent sector employers than their counterparts in the third (63%) and public (57%) sectors. Also, employers in larger cities and more urban areas, as well as island communities, are more likely to be recruiting than those based in more rural areas. The roles currently being recruited for tend to be care staff (particularly support workers and residential care workers) for social care.
5.5 There is no remarkable variation between types of employer. Third sector employers are slightly more likely to be recruiting care staff providing direct care and support at 76% compared to the public sector (75%) and the independent sector (70%). They are also more likely to be recruiting residential care staff.
5.6 There are more significant recruitment variations by geographical coverage of employers. Employers working across a mixture of urban and rural areas are more likely to be recruiting care staff, both those providing direct care and support and those supervising the work of staff, than those working in mainly urban or mainly rural areas.
Source: ekosgen employer survey, n=356, multiple responses allowed
5.7 Just less than a third (30%) of all social care employers who completed the survey reported having hard-to-fill vacancies. This is a little lower than the 2017 findings of the Care Inspectorate and the SSSC report where 37% of care services reported hard-to-fill vacancies. It is slightly higher in the independent sector at 33% of employers, than in the third and public sectors (at 31% and 27% respectively). As context, a recent CIPD Labour Market Outlook report indicates that 37% of UK employers report that they have at least one vacancy that is proving hard to fill.
5.8 In social care, the hard-to-fill posts tend to be for support workers and care workers or assistants, and some have been lying vacant for a long time, as demonstrated by the following quotes:
“Support staff working directly in providing care provision in the community. Not enough interest for people in taking up these posts” (independent sector, urban/rural housing support/ care at home employer)
5.9 As well as the job roles required, employers are struggling to provide staff with the levels and types of training they need. A lack of digital literacy (54%) and a lack of knowledge and skills to support people with complex conditions such as dementia and severe autism (49%) are significant/moderate skills issues facing their current workforce. Just under half of social care employers who took part in our survey reported not being able to provide necessary training to staff (48%). Benchmarking research undertaken by CCPS shows that almost half of employers surveyed said that their annual training budget, which averages £273,000 doesn’t cover all their training costs. The CCPS report indicates that on the whole employers were confident that staff not registered would gain the qualifications they required. It also found that training needs tend to be determined through individual appraisal processes. However, it must be noted that this research only covers the third sector, and is not representative of other sectors.
5.10 In the survey undertaken for this research, skills issues around managing complex conditions are more prevalent in urban employers than rural employers. Digital skills and providing staff training are greater issues for islands and remote employers, which may reflect a greater dependency on remote working and the use of digital technologies in more rural settings.
5.11 Basic skills, such as numeracy and literacy, and managerial skills were not identified as issues/challenges for the majority of employers. This reflects the findings of Figure 5.2 which show that employers are currently far less likely to be recruiting for managerial roles.
Future recruitment needs and challenges
5.12 Around half (51%) of social care employers surveyed anticipate facing challenges in recruiting new staff over the next 12 months. This is shown by the red line in Figure 5.3. It varies substantially by type of employer, with independent and third sector employers much more likely to expect recruitment challenges in the next year than their public sector counterparts.
Source: ekosgen employer survey, Voluntary/third n=221, Independent n=208, Public n=129, Islands and remote n=28, Larger cities n=163, Mainly rural n=204, Urban with substantial rural areas n=189
5.13 It also varies by geography, with the most remote employers much more likely to anticipate recruitment challenges in the future. Interestingly, employers from larger cities are also expecting recruitment challenges, which may be more to do with competition from other employer types (e.g. public sector) and other sectors (e.g. health and education).
5.14 There are also marked variations in terms of the recruitment challenges faced by social care employers depending on service type. As Table 5.1 illustrates, the largest number of employers facing recruitment challenges are housing support/care at home employers (61%, 149 responses). This is likely because the housing support/care at home sector has grown substantially over the past decade, and highlights the additional challenges faced around expansion and replacement demand.
|Sub sector||% of employers|
|Fieldwork service (adults) (n=27)||67%|
|Fieldwork service (offenders) (n=11)||63%|
|Housing support/care at home (n=244)||61%|
|Residential childcare (n=53)||60%|
|Offender accommodation services (n=5)||60%|
|Adult day care (n=88)||58%|
|Fieldwork service (children) (n=12)||58%|
|Adoption services (n=7)||57%|
|Care homes for adults (n=181)||54%|
|Adult placement service (n=20)||50%|
|Fostering services (n=12)||50%|
|Nurse agencies (n=12)||50%|
Source: ekosgen employer survey
5.15 Where recruitment challenges are expected, these broadly mirror the job roles which employers are currently recruiting for. Employers expect to face recruitment challenges when recruiting for support worker roles in particular. Directors, managerial staff (e.g. unit/project managers, group managers) and administrative staff are much less of a concern for employers.
5.16 As with current recruitment, third and independent sector employers (75% and 68% respectively) are more likely to anticipate facing challenges recruiting care staff providing direct care and support than public sector employers (59%).
5.17 Employers report that anticipated skills issues over the next 12 months largely mirror the skills issues that they face currently in their workforce. The skills issues expected to present significant/moderate challenges in the future are organisations being unable to provide the required training to their staff (47%), staff not having the right knowledge or skills to support complex conditions (45%), and staff not having the competencies required to meet the changing needs of the sector (43%). A lack of digital literacy is less of a concern for employers in the future than it is now for their current workforce, suggesting that employers expect these skills to improve or that they know where to access digital training for their staff.
5.18 There is little variation in the anticipated severity of these skills issues by geography, although staff not having the competencies required to meet the changing needs of the sector are more of a concern for rural employers than urban employers (46% vs 39%).
5.19 Again, basic skills (numeracy and literacy), managerial skills and formal qualifications are less of concern for employers going forward, reflecting little expected change from current workforce skills gaps to those over the next 12 months.
5.20 As shown through the employment forecasts in Chapter 3, replacement demand is greater than expansion demand in the social care sector, although both are significant. Almost three quarters (72%) of social care employers plan to recruit staff in the next 12 months to replace staff that might leave, while half (50%) plan to recruit staff to increase the size of their workforce.
5.21 The need to replace staff is higher amongst employers in more remote and urban areas, as shown at Figure 5.4. Over three quarters (77%) of employers based in remote areas (and 76% of employers based in larger cities) plan to recruit in the next year to replace staff, suggesting that the turnover of staff is higher in these areas than in other areas.
5.22 However, there is little variation in expansion plans by geography. Around half of employers in all areas reported plans to recruit staff to expand their workforce. This could indicate that retention is better in rural areas, perhaps because of more limited opportunities to change employer.
Source: ekosgen employer survey, Replacement n=555, Expansion n=556
5.23 At 80%, independent sector employers are more likely to report that they will be recruiting social care staff over the next 12 months to replace people who leave. The corresponding figure for third sector employers is 67% and 65% for public sector employers. It points to the fact that the workforce is more stable in the public sector and that there is less need for recruitment to replace staff.
5.24 There are also more independent sector social care employers planning to recruit to expand their workforce (58% vs 53% for third sector employers and 31% for public sector employers).
5.25 For a significant proportion of employers the flow of people into social care does not meet their needs, and this is particularly felt in the most remote parts of Scotland. In all, almost half (47%) of employers feel the supply of people into the sector meets their needs fairly/very well, while for around four in 10 (41%) it does not meet their needs.
5.26 As shown at Figure 5.5, the mismatch between supply and demand of people into social care is greatest in the islands and remote areas of Scotland. The situation is better in larger cities.
Source: ekosgen employer survey, n=550
5.27 As well as geography, this mismatch varies by employer type, with the majority of public sector employers (57%) reporting that the flow of people into social care meets their needs, much higher than for employers in the voluntary and independent (both 44%) sectors.