Social care: a guide to attracting and retaining a thriving workforce

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Key findings

  • A third (31%) of jobseekers are considering a career in care.
  • Younger candidates are most likely to be planning to pursue careers in care, with one in four (25%) 16–25-year-olds expecting to pursue a career in the sector in the near future.
  • Analysis of Totaljobs candidates found that the number of people applying for social care roles has increased by 39% between 2019 and 2021, with 56% of new starters in care joining from other sectors.

With an estimated workforce of 1.52 million, the adult social care sector plays a significant role in the UK labour market. Over the years ahead it will need to rapidly expand further to meet growing demand.

But the sector faces long-standing challenges which have been made more acute by the pandemic and recent changes to immigration policy. From attracting individuals with the right qualities to retaining skilled staff and developing routes to progression, care providers are struggling to build and sustain their workforce.

The guide aims to support care providers navigating these challenges, highlighting key insights from our research and offering recommendations for employers and government to create long-term solutions for a thriving workforce.

Our research found that perceptions of care work seem to be improving, with more than half (53%) of jobseekers from outside the sector reporting they hold a more positive view of social care since the onset of the pandemic, and nearly a third of those surveyed considering a future career in care


Care providers should:

  • Create opportunities for young people to build an understanding of care work. These could include taster days and work placements, developed through direct engagement with colleges and schools.
  • Adopt a values-based approach to recruiting care workers, for example through using scenario-based questions, or group assessment days.
  • Consult with their workforce to understand the rewards and benefits they would value most, and use this insight to develop a benefits package that aligns with staff preferences.
  • Social care sector bodies and regulators should coordinate with central Government and national governments to create a sector-wide, long-term strategy for workforce development including creating a Continuing Professional Development Framework well supported by funding.

In addition, the Government should:

Deliver on its commitment to produce a long-term strategy for funding and delivering adult social care into the future.

Download the full report here

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