National Care Service - adult social care workforce: evidence

This paper summarises the available evidence on the adult social care workforce in Scotland. It is part of a collection of contextual evidence papers, setting out key sources of information about social care and related areas in Scotland.

This document is part of a collection

4. Ongoing issues for the adult social care workforce

This section summarises some other issues facing the adult social care workforce, including vacancies, skills and qualifications, and relative levels of pay.

4.1 Vacancies

The annual Staff Vacancies in Care Services 2020 report shows that the social care sector had an overall vacancy rate[10] of 43%. In particular, housing support, care at home and care homes for older people reported that vacancies were hard to fill, with vacancy rates of 60%, 59% and 48% respectively. The vacancy rate in adult social care services decreased since 2019[11]. According to the Scottish Employer Skills Survey 2020 11% of employers (across all sectors) reported having a vacancy[12], which shows that the vacancy rate in adult social care is much higher in comparison to other sectors.

The Staff Vacancies in Care Services 2020 has data from the end of 2020. Since December 2020 the unemployment rate in Scotland fell from 4.3% to 3.5% in January 2022[13] which can create further pressures for social care staffing. With lower unemployment, fewer people are looking for a job. which can affect the number of applicants and can increase competition from other providers or others type of work.

4.2 Skills and qualifications

According to the SSSC Workforce Skills Report 2021 report, at the end of 2020, 52% of adult social care workers held the required qualifications for their role. The least qualified group of registered workers are workers in care at home/housing support services, which is the social care sub-sector with the highest vacancy rate.

The total number of qualification conditions[14] ending between 2021 and 2025 stands at 68,768. Most of these qualifications are met by the SVQ Social Services and Healthcare (SSH) at SCQF level 6. Almost 20,000 qualifications conditions require to be met in 2024, which means that enrolment should be in 2023 to give sufficient time to complete the qualification. In the previous five years, the supply for the SVQ SSH at SCQF level 6 award was just under 5,000 starts per year. Thus, the qualification demand is projected to be more than two times bigger than the training provision. Specifically, almost 55,000 social care workers will require the level 6 qualification, with only 25,000 available training slots.

Approximately nine out of ten managers said that qualifications did meet the needs of their service, while over eight out of ten agreed that the qualifications required for registration support the professionalisation of the workforce. The main areas where managers reported skills gaps and which were not addressed by current qualifications were infection prevention and control, digital skills, trauma informed practice and quality improvement[15].

4.3 Pay

In 2021, The Independent Review of Social Care in Scotland reported that the social care workforce is undervalued, badly paid for vital, skilled work and held in low esteem in comparison particularly to the health workforce[16]. In their 2019 report on Fair Work in Scotland’s Social Care Sector, the Fair Work Convention highlighted poor terms and conditions and a lack of security for social care staff, although they acknowledged that progress was being made to address issues of low pay with the implementation of the Living Wage[17].

Since 2016, the Scottish Government has provided funding to ensure that adult social care workers, delivering direct care in commissioned services, are paid at least the Real Living Wage (RLW). During 2018/19, this commitment was extended to include workers providing overnight adult social care support. From 1 December 2021, the pay rate increased from the RLW rate of £9.50 per hour to £10.02 per hour; and then from 1 April 2022, the minimum hourly rate increased to £10.50 per hour. The uplift applies to workers delivering direct care to adults in care homes and a range of services including care at home, day care, housing support, adult placement services, respite services and all Self Directed Support options.

Due to the way adult social care services are currently commissioned, these uplifts in pay are currently delivered through Local Government contracts. This relies on providers accepting the additional funding – as part of contract variations – and this funding must be used to increase pay to the minimum levels. For the 2022/23 financial year, the Scottish Government has transferred £200 million to Local Government to support investment in social care; this includes funding to deliver the £10.50 minimum wage for these adult social care workers.

This represents an increase of 4.8% from the £10.02 pay rate that was introduced in December 2021, and an increase of 12.9% for these workers in the course of a year - with pay rising from at least £9.30 per hour in March 2021 to at least £10.50 per hour in April 2022.



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