Social care exodus: One in three social carers plan to leave the sector in the next five years

New research from Totaljobs reveals one in three (37%) social carers are looking to leave the sector within the next five years. This equates to over half a million workers[1] potentially leaving social care. This research sheds further light on the state of the UK’s social care sector, considered to be in crisis according to three quarters (76%) of MPs in a recent independent poll.[2]

These staff shortages may arrive sooner, as one fifth (20%) of social carers are already actively looking for roles outside the sector, considering taking their transferable skills to careers in healthcare (51%), retail (43%) and hospitality (24%). One in five (19%) plan to leave social care within the next two years, and this figure increases to over half (57%) expecting to exit the sector within the next decade.

Concerningly, the UK will need a further 650,000 workers by 2035 to meet the increased need for care services as a result of the country’s ageing population, which will see one in five people over the age of 65 by 2030.[3] This means the sector may face a staffing deficit of over 1.2 million[4] workers by the middle of the next decade, begging the question: how is the UK going to care for those that need it?

Over 170,000 applications were made to social care roles on Totaljobs in the first half of 2019, with an average of 12 applications for each role advertised. In fact, applications have risen by 13% compared to last year, a clear silver lining. However, we cannot ignore the bigger picture that shows the sector is still facing an increasing shortage of workers.

A lack of new talent

The demand for social carers is not being met, partly due to a lack of entry level talent. Most of Gen Z (56% of 16-25-year olds) wouldn’t consider a career in the sector. This could be due to a lack of awareness, as over half (53%) of Gen Z reported that teachers, parents or friends have never spoken to them about a career in social care.

More widely, the research revealed that Brits overwhelmingly respect and value social workers with 90% believing that social carers are essential in society. However, two thirds of people (67%) have stated that they wouldn’t ever consider a career in social care, citing concerns over low pay (42%), emotionally challenging work (41%) and perceptions of unappealing work (29%).

For those in the sector, 70% of social carers believe colleagues are leaving the sector due to their working environment, and 80% argue that they are leaving due to pay. The latter suggests a need for greater transparency around career and salary progression, for those inside as well as outside of social care, to increase awareness of the opportunities available.

It’s essential that employers take steps to successfully attract, recruit and retain social carers, to secure the future of social care and ensure people get the support they need.

A sector in need of change

Despite the number of social carers looking to leave the sector, nearly seven out of 10 (68%) would recommend a career in social care, making it clear that they value their work. This passion means many social carers would be keen to stay if improvements are on the horizon. Social carers are proud of the work they do (81%), naming the best bits about working in the sector as building relationships with those they care for (60%) and being able to give back to society (58%).

While the challenges the social care sector faces are multi-faceted, employers can offer solutions to support their workforce and retain staff. Social carers outlined the following actions that could enhance their careers:

  1. Feeling more valued by their employer (59%)
  2. An increase in salary (51%)
  3. Greater support from management (46%)
  4. Strong leadership (42%)
  5. Greater career progression (41%)
  6. More training and development opportunities (40%)
  7. More flexible working hours (37%)
  8. Reduced stress (35%)
  9. Job security and stability (31%)
  10. Funded qualification (28%)

Alexandra Sydney, Director at Totaljobs commented:

“Totaljobs has seen a growing interest in social care roles, with applications up 13% compared to August 2018. However, our research highlights that there is more to be done to protect a sector in demand.

“Despite the challenges they face, the vast majority of social carers would still recommend a career in social care. With this, 81% of those who plan to stay in the sector say they’re proud of the work they do. Employers should promote this passion to attract entry-level talent into the sector. Generation Z are known for being driven by careers with purpose, but very few have considered a career in social care.

“By building awareness and consideration among those entering the workforce, employers have the opportunity to tap into a goldmine of talent, future-proof the sector and ensure people get the care they need.”

Care UK’s Director of HR, Leah Queripel said:

“This is a very thought-provoking piece of research and many of the findings back up what we have heard from potential recruits in the past.  Using this knowledge, we have, in the past few years, put a great deal of investment into making us the employer of choice for people who want to work in social care. In particular, our focus on allowing each colleague to develop new skills and creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to work their way up a career ladder if they so choose.

 “As a result, we have many examples of senior colleagues including home managers and regional directors who started as carers and, after taking advantage of the leadership training on offer, have moved into well-paid senior positions with us.

“And, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that social care isn’t just about care workers – we also have opportunities for people to work in areas such as maintenance, IT, catering and hospitality. Each with its own rewards, career structure and opportunities for talented people to learn and develop. I hope today’s survey makes more people of all ages realise just how fulfilling the social care sector can be.”

[1] https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/NMDS-SC-intelligence/Workforce-intelligence/documents/State-of-the-adult-social-care-sector/The-state-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-and-workforce-2018.pdf

[2] https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/health/2019/06/most-mps-agree-there-s-crisis-social-care-so-why-aren-t-they-solving-it

[3] https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/NMDS-SC-intelligence/Workforce-intelligence/documents/State-of-the-adult-social-care-sector/The-state-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-and-workforce-2018.pdf

[4] https://blog.totaljobs.com/future-proofing-the-social-care-industry