National health and social care workforce plan: part two

Part two of the plan will enable different workforce planning systems to move towards improved planning in social care.

Chapter 3: Setting The Context: The Current Workforce - Demography And Skills

16. This chapter provides a national level overview of the current social services workforce we have in Scotland. Further detail on some of its key characteristics and past trends is provided in Annex A. Having access to and understanding data on the current workforce and how it is changing is critical to our ability to plan for the future. These data form an essential part of the evidence required for workforce planning. However, changing structures and approaches to service delivery mean that data needs for workforce planning are also changing. Thus one of the priorities for action identified in this plan is to better understand the data needs of the different partners involved in workforce planning and develop approaches to how they can be fulfilled.

An overview of the workforce

17. The social services workforce is the largest public service workforce in Scotland, with 200,650 people in paid employment at end of 2016 [1] (latest official statistics). This makes up approximately 7.7% of all Scottish employment. There have been small fluctuations in the size of the workforce since 2008, with an overall increase of 1.9% between 2008 and 2016. By comparison, in June 2016 the NHS employed approximately 161,000 workers [2] . The education and financial services sectors in Scotland employ approximately 193,000 and 49,000 workers respectively [3] .

18. The structure of employment is complex, with the workforce employed in 13,481 active services registered by the Care Inspectorate. 42% of workers are employed in the independent sector, 31% in the public sector and 28% in the third sector. At the end of 2015 [4] :

  • 2,644 employers provided care services in Scotland (excluding childminders)
  • 1,536 were independent sector organisations
  • 1,070 were third sector organisations
  • 80% of service providers employed fewer than 50 people.

19. The workforce is involved in delivering a range of services and care to different groups of people who use services, including adult social care/social work; children’s social services, criminal justice (offender) services and early learning and child-care. Some of these services are provided as part of integrated health and social care services; some are publicly provided but are not integrated; and some of these are accessed privately by people without the involvement of statutory services.

  • 140,370 (headcount) work in adult social services [5]
  • 17,050 (headcount) work in children’s social services [6]
  • 2,050 (headcount) work in offender services
  • 40,550 (headcount) work in early learning and child care.

20. The workforce also includes people working in a wide variety of roles, from service commissioners to frontline staff.

  • 80% (approximately) of workers are in frontline care roles
  • 13% (approximately) of workers are in support roles such as administration and catering.

21. As at the end of 2016:

  • Around half the workforce works full time
  • 85% of the workforce is female
  • The median age across the workforce is 44 years, slightly higher than the median age of the Scottish working population (41).

22. Workforce density varies between local authority areas, between highest levels of 727 staff per 10,000 people (in the Shetland Islands) to lowest levels of 261 per 10,000 people (in West Lothian). For those in registered services [7] 87.2% of the workforce is in urban areas and 12.8% in rural areas [8] .

23. There are a number of groups of people with important roles in providing social care that are not included in the official social services workforce statistics. These include paid workers such as child-minding assistants and Personal Assistants, and unpaid roles such as volunteers and carers.

Availability of workforce data

24. The Scottish Social Services Council ( SSSC) is responsible for providing data and intelligence on the social services workforce at a national level, undertaking an annual survey of local authority social work services each December. Data is collected on the workforce in all registered services by the Care Inspectorate through their annual returns. These two data sets are combined and published annually as the Scottish Social Services Workforce Data Report (Official Statistics) [9] . Much of the data is also made available for use at a local and comparative level through the SSSC online data portal – (see

25. The SSSC also publishes:

  • Annual Mental Health Officers’ Reports (National Statistics) based on an annual survey of social workers employed as mental health officers by local authorities;
  • Workforce Skills Reports every two years that bring together data on the workforce, uptake of qualifications, service users and drivers for change to identify key workforce development challenges for the sector (the latest report was published in October 2017 [10] );
  • Quarterly reports on Scottish Vocational Qualification ( SVQ) provision, with data on those undertaking and completing qualifications relevant to the sector.

26. Skills Development Scotland produces regular official statistics for Modern Apprenticeships, including those in the health and social care sector [11] .

Use of data to inform workforce planning

27. This section has set out an overview of the numbers of workers in the social services sector. These data and further detailed information on the workforce is published annually, with some data available for interrogation on the SSSC website. Data from any one year is currently published in Quarter 3 of the following year [12] . Data availability for this workforce differs from that of the NHS workforce - for example in location, detail and regularity of publication - and these differences create some challenges in workforce planning for integrated services.

28. While some work has taken place to obtain an improved understanding of what changes to workforce data would assist effective workforce planning, further work is required to determine what improvements would be most useful and how these can best be delivered. For example, there may be value in considering the costs/benefits of more timely and/or more regular collection and publication of workforce data. At a national level, there may also be value in developing a specific picture of the parts of the workforce that are working under integrated arrangements. Changes in data standards may also be required, to reflect service redesign, increased multidisciplinary team working and changing staff roles.

29. As the outline in this chapter shows, there is a wide range of data available on the current social care workforce. However, structures and requirements for workforce planning are changing and to ensure that these data can assist fully, a clearer, shared articulation of specific data gaps and needs is now needed, bringing in the range of partners involved in workforce planning at national, regional and local levels. In addition, for integrated health and social care services, dedicated resource may be required to bring the information together with NHS workforce data in a useful format. This work will need to align with the work being led by NHS Education for Scotland ( NES) under Part 1 of the National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan, which includes recommendations on bringing together existing data sources, and development of a minimum standardised dataset.

Recommendation 1: Integrated workforce data

  • To enable better collation of health and social care workforce data to support national and local workforce planning. This will draw on the work of the Scottish Social Services Council ( SSSC) and the Care Inspectorate, in alignment with the work being led by NHS Education for Scotland on the NHS Scotland workforce in response to Part 1 of the Plan. The work will contribute to the wider, whole system approach required for health and social care in the future.



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