With demand for services rising but resources shrinking, the social care system in the UK is under strain. While this is clearly not good news for service users, the UK’s shortage of qualified social workers, as well as doctors and other healthcare professionals, does make these jobs some of the most secure you are likely to find.
In the past five years, the combined impact of an ageing population and severe government cuts has effectively wiped out 31 percent of the social care budget across the UK. According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), the resulting shortage of social care professionals is increasingly putting older and vulnerable people at risk.
The challenges facing the current workforce
Figures from the National Audit Office show that in 2014 there were 1.5 million people working in adult social care, and 1.4 million working in the NHS. Together they account for 1 in 10 of the working population and around 70 percent of the expenditure for the average health and social care provider.
What might seem like an abundance of human resources is still falling short of the mark due to the unique challenges facing today’s workforce. Those placing the greatest demand on services now, and in the future, are older people who need integrated, long term health and social care.
The current social and healthcare model was designed around delivering care during single episodes of treatment in hospital. The aging population has completely changed this, causing a mismatch between where the current workforce is located, and where the care is needed.
Clearly, the need for home and community-based care is growing, but to deliver this care there needs to be a closer collaboration between the specialists and generalists at hospitals and in the community. This includes mental and physical health workers, with an increasing need for multi-skilled staff who can work across these boundaries.
The nature of social work is changing
Across the globe, the demand for health and social care workers is growing, but the number of workers is staying the same, and even falling in some countries. In the UK, many care providers are already struggling to recruit social and healthcare professionals.
There is predicted to be a mismatch in the supply and demand of social care professionals of 1 million workers by 2025, which will lead to a shortfall on predicted demand of 35 percent. However, the effect of an aging population means there is also going to be a dwindling number of ‘informal carers’ (unpaid care provided by friends and family), which could further increased demands on the social care sector.
Between 2010 and 2030, it is predicted that the number of people requiring informal care will increase by 1.1 million, to 3 million, as the number of people living alone and away from family support grows. It’s also predicted that the demand for less complex care will rise; this will mean more home care for frail people, further increasing the need for social care providers.
Councils are struggling to fill vacancies
Despite the shortfall in social care professionals, councils across England are struggling to fill their vacancies due to budgetary pressure from cuts and the lack of qualified social workers with real-life experience. The councils say there is actually no shortage of social care workers, but finding those with real life experience is becoming more difficult.
There’s also the problem that social work and other social care roles have long been dominated by women, which of course cuts the potential workforce by half. New research has shown that more male students are dropping out of social care courses than ever before, which is part of the reason why, according to the General Social Care Council, over 75 percent of qualified social workers are female.
At Seven Social Care, we’re plugging the social care skills gap by placing qualified and experienced social care professionals in jobs around the country. If you’re looking for a social care role in your area, please register or upload your CV today.