Adult social care faces significant difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff – particularly in direct care roles. Some of the issues are:
- Low pay (both for the nature and complexity of the work, and in comparison to other sectors)
- Limited/varying opportunities for training and career progression
- Difficult working conditions (for example, fluctuating hours and shifts, often arranged at short notice with consequences for work-life balance; zero hours contracts; issues of safety and lone working)
These are significant barriers and challenges, but evidence from research, from people’s lived experience, and from the practical knowledge of people working in adult social care suggests a number of things that might help to address them.
The evidence suggested a number of things to consider. Click on each title to read more:
It can be difficult to recruit more people to work in adult social care when all the talk is of problems, challenges and vacancies. However, there are many people within the sector who, without disregarding the issues, focus on the fulfillment they receive from their roles – and how they are ultimately able to help people lead ordinary lives. By promoting these voices the image of social care can be more balanced and positive than it currently is.
It also reinforces IMPACT’s belief, and vision, that good care isn’t just about ‘services’, it’s about having a life.
Several people have run campaigns to raise awareness of careers in social care and help people understand what these roles entail.
There may be scope to target particular groups (for example, to try to recruit more young people or more men into care work), using particular ways of communicating that are best suited to the group you’re trying to reach.
While it is hard to tackle pay at a local level, there are examples of where other incentives such as rewards and/or benefit schemes have been offered to staff. These include:
- Providing gym facilities
- Having return-to-work processes
- Healthcare schemes
- Monetary contributions
- Flexible working and paying attention to work-life balance
In addition, research points to the importance of training and development – both in terms of equipping people to do a good job and continue learning, but also in terms of making people feel valued.
Although it’s a difficult environment, many people are trying to do what they can to make staff feel more valued and supported.
There are lots of practical examples of this in toolkits produced by sector skills councils such as Skills for Care or in recommendations from bodies such as the Institute of Health and Social Care Management or the Work Foundation. Some of these are inexpensive or even free. Examples might include:
- Making welfare calls to staff
- Sending out thank you cards as a means of providing feedback
- Undertaking group supervision
- Implementing meetings every morning after night duty
- Managers adopting ‘open door’ policies
- Appointing mental health first aiders
- Giving people’s birthdays off on a paid basis
There is growing evidence to suggest that, for some roles and in some settings, recruiting staff with the right values and behaviours might be more important than recruiting on the basis of specific qualifications or previous experience. Skills for Care, for example, has conducted a number of evaluations of a values-based recruitment toolkit (VBRT), suggesting that these ways of working might lead to lower recruitment costs, positive return on investment, lower staff turnover and better staff performance.
However, values-based recruitment cannot just be bolted on to previous ways of working. Rather than just recruiting people with a particular set of skills and values, it might be feeling part of a values-based organisation or fostering a culture that actively reinforces these values in every day that encourages people to stay.