The care home workforce needs more support and funding from the Government

The new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found the turnover of care staff in England has reached as high as 28 per cent, due to low pay for care workers, coupled with poor career progression and tough, working conditions.

The number of people working in the care sector is not meeting the country’s growing care demands and unmet care needs are increasing, according to the NAO, which claims the Department of Health and Social Care is not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: ‘Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.

‘Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the Department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.’

The report revealed that in 2016-17, around half of care workers were paid £7.50 per hour or below (the National Living Wage was £7.20 in 2016-17), which is equivalent to £14,625 annually.

There are around 1.34m jobs in the adult social care sector in England, across more than 20,300 organisations. The vacancy rate in 2016-17 for jobs across social care was 6.6 per cent, which was well above the national average of 2.5 per cent to 2.7 per cent.

Demographic trends suggest demand for care will continue to rise and people’s cares needs will continue to become more complex. To meet these challenges, the Department estimates that the workforce will need to grow by 2.6 per cent every year until 2035.

However care providers are struggling to attract and keep care workers, with nurses being particularly sought after.

In response to the report, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: ‘The NAO’s report provides yet more evidence that the social care system is fit to burst and that the Government is not doing enough to support the social care workforce. Workforce is the most valuable asset to care providers and they need to be able to support, develop and pay them appropriately’.

He added: ‘No more reviews, no more consultations; let Government press ahead with all the necessary partners, to provide some much needed direction to a sector that is struggling.’

Local authorities spent 5.3 per cent less on care in 2016-17 compared with 2010-11, and spending is expected to reduce further over the next two years due to continued government funding cuts and increased financial pressures on local authorities.

With around 65 per cent of independent providers’ income coming from local authority-arranged care, this means the situation for care providers looks set to worsen.

The NAO report revealed that 16 per cent of registered nurses working in the care sector in 2016-17 were non-British European Economic Area nationals. This is the highest percentage for any care job and with Brexit still casting uncertainty over the future of EU workers, the number of nurses working in the care home could fall even further. released figures last year which showed there had been a sharp fall in EU applicants for care home jobs after people in Britain voted in favour of Brexit.

In the 12 months before the Referendum, the care home reviews site saw 3.26% of all applications coming from the EU, this figure fell to 2.41% in the 12 months since – a decline of 26%.

The drop in EU applications was particularly stark following the UK Government’s triggering of Article 50. While in February, 425 EU nationals applied for a residential care job, this number fell to 109 in March, and reached as low as 60 in April.

During the two years in question, Jobs received over 200,000 applications in total.


The Government intends to publish a green paper on reforming care for older people by summer 2018.

Sue Learner

Editor of