- 29 April 2020
- 6 min read
What does the Government's 2020 recruitment campaign to create 110,000 social care jobs mean?
With a rapidly ageing populace, the UK Government are attempting to keep up with the demand for social care workers with the ‘Every Day is Different’ campaign. Here we explain what that means for you.
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The government’s campaign to fill 110,000 social care vacancies throughout the UK began in February 2020.
It comes in reaction to the fact that a predicted 650,000 extra social care workers will be needed by 2035 to keep up with the increasing proportion of the UK population that’s over 65.
Known as the ‘Every Day is Different’ campaign, it celebrates the fact that 96% of social care workers feel that their work makes a difference.
But with such a big hill to climb, how does the government plan on filling all these roles?
And how realistic is this ambition?
Boosting the industry reputation
The government’s stated strategy is threefold.
It intends to attract new people with the right values to the sector; to highlight the wide range of roles available; and to equip the sector with the marketing tools it needs to attract and retain great staff.
The main marketing channels are social media, digital and local radio, and various events throughout the year.
It’s targeting people aged between 20 and 39 as research suggests this is the demographic most likely to consider the role.
The COVID-19 crisis has of course impacted these plans – but it hasn’t diminished the need for more social care staff.
Social care workers are on the frontline too.
Is the problem recruitment, or retention?
It’s been widely reported that around 400,000 people leave the profession each year – and the workforce currently stands at approximately 1.45 million.
So a big question has to be asked: should the focus be on recruitment, or retention?
Because a turnover rate of more than 30% is unsustainable.
The answer almost certainly is both.
And it’s unclear whether this campaign will attempt to address both issues.
In 2018, the typical hourly rate for a health care worker in the independent sector was just £7.82 per hour – which was fractionally below the minimum wage.
Any campaign to attract and retain social care workers has to target this problem over any other.
Is pay the only problem?
It’s fair to assume that the notoriously low salaries available for social care workers is a key factor behind the consistent failure to attract and retain enough staff.
But it isn’t fair to assume it’s the only problem.
With a vacancy rate of around 8% in social care, compared to an average of 3% in other sectors, there have to be other challenges too.
The problem for the government however is that social care work is largely independently and unregulated run by private employers, so collecting and sharing staff data has always been a problem.
Nonetheless, it’s anecdotally suggested that the perceived low status of social care work is another factor – which explains the government’s focus on improving it.
And the other most widely agreed issue is career progression.
A 2019 survey by UNISON also discovered that social care workers are more likely to leave their roles if they’re younger and less experienced.
This suggests two interesting points.
Firstly, that retention can improve when social care workers spend some time in the job and develop their career.
And secondly, that improved training, therefore, could also lead to improved retention.
The same survey found turnover was higher among staff without a qualification.
As yet, it isn’t clear how the government campaign will address these issues.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
It’s been reported by The Health Foundation, among others, that smaller and not-for-profit organisations have lower turnover and vacancy rates – and more success when recruiting.
Unsurprisingly, it’s also been noted that these companies tend to offer better pay, and better working conditions.
So, there is some proof that providers can boost recruitment by boosting pay and improving working conditions.
Where next for social care recruitment?
The fact there is a focused government campaign to recruit more social care workers is positive in and of itself.
The sector needs the spotlight, given it has the highest staff turnover rates of any sector in the country.
And with COVID-19, far from making this issue less relevant, the need for more social care workers has become even more pronounced.
It’s expected that some insights into the success of the campaign to date will be revealed in the summer of 2020.
It’s hoped that a significant dent will have been made in the figure of 110,000.
But it remains to be seen whether that’s realistic.
And whatever happens, the government will need to address turnover too, or its recruitment work will be completely undermined.