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Adult social care sector in the UK could face a shortfall of up to 200,000 workers by 2020, because of restrictions on immigration and a failure to attract British workers to “increasingly unattractive” roles, a report has warned.
Uncertain hours, low pay and stressful working conditions have made care work an increasingly unattractive vocation for British people, according to a joint report from charity Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK). The report goes further, citing crippling budget cuts, restrictive immigration policies and “a continued failure to attract more UK born workers” as the increasingly “dire” dynamics driving this key sector.
More worryingly still, this worker shortfall gap could reach as high as ONE MILLION in the next twenty years, as the population ages and demand on the services increases significantly. The number of people aged over 80 is expected to double in size to over 5 million by 2037, and social care funding has already been reduced by nearly 11 per cent in the last five years.
According to the report’s analysis of ONS data, 1 in 5 of the adult social care workforce (18.4 per cent) in England was born outside of the UK, which includes 150,000 working in residential care homes and 81,000 working in adult domiciliary care.
Meanwhile, employers continue to struggle to recruit and retain staff in the UK. Nearly 1 in 20 (4.8 per cent) positions in adult social care in England are currently vacant – nearly twice the vacancy rate in the UK’s labour force as a whole (2.6 per cent). The social care sector also has one of the largest employee turnover rates, at 23.9 per cent.
“Working in care is unattractive for many due to uncertain hours, low pay and stressful working conditions,” the report said.
In turn, migrant workers are said to be younger and “significantly more likely to be high-skilled (have a qualification equivalent to level 4 or above)” compared to their UK counterparts.
Simon Bottery, director of policy at Independent Age, said the UK government should make it easier for social care providers to recruit from overseas by opening up the Tier 3 visa route, and placing highly skilled roles such as therapist and social worker on the Shortage Occupation List.
“We need to recognise the current reliance of social care on migrant workers and make it easier for them to work here but also look to the sector’s longer-term future,” he said.
“The government must use the upcoming spending review to invest in social care so it can attract more UK workers, while at the same time exploring new ways of caring for our ageing population in the future.”
The report suggested a ‘care-prentice’ scheme could encourage older people into care work, and a national campaign to attract more male care workers could help fund the shortfall. It said employers also had a role to play in investing in training, apprenticeships and career development to make adult social care an attractive career choice for UK born workers.
Ben Franklin, head of economics of ageing at ILC-UK, said this would take a “substantive shift in the direction of policy as well as a change in public perceptions about what working in care is like.”
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