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Adult social care workforce strategy update from Skills for Care February 2024

Skills for Care is the strategic workforce development body for adult social care in England. We’re an independent charity and everything we do is about making sure the sector has the right people and skills to provide the best possible care and support.

In October 2023, Skills for Care started leading the development a workforce strategy for adult social care in collaboration with the sector, with the intention to publish in the summer of 2024. The strategy Steering Group is co-chaired by our CEO Oonagh Smyth and Sir David Pearson and includes leaders from a wide range of organisations with a stake in the future of the sector.

Why do we need a workforce strategy?

We know that we have a huge number of people working in social care – more than 1.5 million – accounting for 5% of all jobs in England. An increasing number of us are living longer with long-term conditions or a disability, and without changes to the way services are delivered, we know we’re going to need a lot more people working in care to meet future needs. From our latest data we estimate we will need up to an extra 440,000 posts in social care by 2035.

But we also know that while we need more people tomorrow, we don’t have enough people today (with 152,000 vacancies on any given day in 2022/23) and we lose too many people each year – 390,000 people leave their posts each year.

We have a leaky bucket and too many good people, with the right values and skills, are falling through the holes.

Behind the data is a collection of individual stories, experiences, and lives, and the impact of these statistics is felt in real life by the people we support and their families.

When we can’t get the people we need to support us to live our lives or they don’t stay in their roles, we need to keep building relationships with new people and we must tell our stories again and again. There are also the baton changes between health and social care when the systems aren’t aligned.

How we’re creating the strategy

We’re developing the strategy in two phases – an evidence-led and practical one-to-five-year phase, plus an ambitious, vision-led five-to-fifteen-year phase. And we’re drawing on a range of data and expertise to help us form that.

We have two workstreams:

  *   Case for change, service ambitions and baselines

  *   Data and economics (with an Academic and Research Panel sitting alongside)

An initial piece of research has been carried out by Skills for Care and the King’s Fund, establishing stakeholder expectations of the future adult social care workforce. This will form part of the case for change, service ambitions and baselines workstream.

A number of expert working groups have now been set up:

  *   Science, Technology, AI and Pharmaceuticals

  *   Integration

  *   Prevention

  *   New Service Models and Multidisciplinary Working

  *   Recruit and Retain

  *   Develop and Train

  *   Leadership

These groups are developing scenarios and recommendations which will be scrutinised by the Data and Economics Workstream and an independent Academic and Research Panel in March 2024.

Expert working groups can take an approach to exploring different parts of the adult social care workforce where there are distinct differences. For example, those who work with people who are of working age or working with older people, or differences in the work in the community or in residential settings.

We are working closely with colleagues in NHS England who developed and are now implementing the NHS Long Term Plan. There is a strong will to ensure alignment and ‘stitching together’ of the two strategies.

As well as some recommendations for Government, the strategy will form the basis for a blueprint for Integrated Care Systems, commissioners/ Local Authorities and employers.

Historically voices in the sector can be fragmented – and a positive by-product of the development of this strategy, which we are already seeing, will be a stronger collective view and strengthened responsibility to make change happen.

What next?

The workstreams outlined above will conclude their work at the end of April 2024 which will lead to further iterations of recommendations. We will also be hosting a series of roundtables to seek further views from audiences across the sector. We will share a follow-up briefing at this point to update you further, but please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss anything in more detail.

Visit the Skills for Care website for more information.

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