With the care sector currently accounting for one in 10 of all job vacancies across the UK, it’s in the eye of a workforce crisis storm, discusses Kris Peach, executive director of extra care at Housing 21.

Providers are inadequately equipped with the people we need to care for the UK’s growing ageing population – not just now but in the next 10 years.

The recent Skills For Care report – The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England 2021 – echoes this, revealing considerable severe care worker shortages.

In fact, there are around 105,000 vacancies advertised daily, with the average sick day rate almost doubling over 12 months, from 5.1 to 9.5 days. Meanwhile, the sector’s care worker turnover rate stands at over one third (34.4%).

Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise. Care workers have faced the last 18 months at the frontline of the pandemic – and, put simply, they’re tired.

Our sector is heading for crisis and urgent action, at both a sector and government level, is needed.

Current workforce shortages come in the wake of well-documented years of under-funding, exacerbated by the current uncertainty around mandatory vaccinations and the loss of EU workers. This has left us at the bottom of the jobs pile. Urgent recruitment is needed, with shortages already taking their toll on current workers who are left understaffed and overworked.

But at a provider level, we’re looking at how we can help to tackle the wider and more complex issue of the ‘image problem’ for careers in care. Housing 21 is increasing job and financial security for care workers by offering guaranteed-hour contracts and pay 10% above the National Living Wage.

By investing in people and offering more training and flexible hours to engender work-life balance, staff retention is improving, with turnover rates at just 16.2% (Doing the Right Thing Report 2021) compared to the sector average of 34.4%.

But to fill vacancies at a sector level, an overhaul in thinking is required to tackle issues around retention and the perception of a lack of progression opportunities.

Government support is needed both to populate the pipeline and raise awareness of the value of the social care sector, to change prevailing views about careers in care and how rewarding it is.

The focus of this recruitment drive and fundamental shift in the sector should come back to the growing ageing population, and the people at the heart of this crisis who are helping our older people to live healthier, happier, and more independent lives.

Without making these people and workers a priority, the crisis will only worsen.