Recruitment has always been an issue for the care sector and it is likely to endure. The sector forecasts a shortage of 350,000 workers by 2028 assuming no significant changes are made. In reality, slow but steady technology improvements, provided the funding emerges, will chip away at this number. In the short-medium term, though, it will continue to be a problem.
It isn’t hard to detect the sources of the problem. Social care is mostly hard, unglamorous work for relatively poor pay, similar to other sectors such as hospitality. One think tank estimated that as many as half of the social care workforce may be being paid below the real living wage. In an era where young people are constantly comparing and contrasting each other’s lives using social media, spending your days caring for older people is unattractive. Even the potential for quick promotion due to the talent shortage is not enough to counter-balance this fact.
With funding pressures unlikely to be quickly alleviated, wages in the sector are unlikely to increase. The only structural factors that may have a positive effect on recruitment in the sector, ironically, would be an economic recession, releasing excess labour into the market. Unless there is significant economic pain following Brexit, this also seems remote. The job market, despite the problems in retail, has performed well in recent years. Brexit, depending on what deal is reached, may also reduce the ability of providers to source carers from EU states.
Larger care providers, of course, have the resources and freedom to be able to innovate with their recruitment. One provider is planning make more use of social media and capitalising on the real experiences of carers to spread its message. Skills for Care has been discussing the possibility of creating a clearer career pathway for carers, although this feels unlikely to seriously shift perceptions. For smaller providers, it looks like the challenge is going to remain.