Third of UK jobseekers considering career in social care - new research from Lancaster University reveals

A third of UK jobseekers are considering a career in social care, as public opinion improves after Covid-19.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:30 pm
Ben Harrison.
Ben Harrison.

Applications to social care jobs have increased as a report from The Work Foundation (a UK think tank which forms part of Lancaster University Management School) and Totaljobs finds that the pandemic has significantly improved people’s perceptions of working in the sector.

The comprehensive study shows that a new-found appreciation for carers could help improve the sector’s longstanding worker shortage, with 31 per cent of UK jobseekers considering a job in the sector.

However, it finds there is a risk that the sector will continue to be characterised by high levels of staff churn, with one in seven (14 per cent) current social care workers actively looking for a new role outside the industry as it faces new challenges.

Data from Totaljobs shows the number of applications to social care roles increased by 39 per cent year on year (Jan-Mar 2020 vs Jan-Mar 2021). Alongside this, social care vacancies advertised on Totaljobs are up by 17 per cent across the same period.

Younger candidates are most likely to be planning to pursue careers in care, with one in four (25 per cent) 16 to 25-year-olds expecting to pursue a career in the sector in the near future. More generally, 17 per cent of all jobseekers confirmed that they are likely to move into the sector in the near future.

Analysis of Totaljobs data from 15,248 candidates across 5 major social care organisations shows that 56 per cent of those moving into social care roles had come from a different sector in the last two years. 19 per cent of those moving into the sector came from customer service, retail and sales backgrounds, whilst seven per cent moved from catering, utilising key transferrable skills.

52 per cent of people in the UK say their view of social care work has become more positive following the pandemic, with a quarter (26 per cent) noting that Clap for Carers impacted their opinion.

Only 16 per cent of people said government recruitment campaigns shaped their view of the sector.

The report also highlights the extent to which the pandemic has impacted care workers’ wellbeing. Only 48% of respondents to the carers survey stated that their mental health was good or very good over the past two weeks, in comparison with 60 per cent in early 2020.

When asked about their experience of working in the last year, two-fifths of social care workers (41 per cent) reported an increased workload during the pandemic, and almost one third (30 per cent) had to make up hours for colleagues who were self-isolating.

The pressure the pandemic placed on the social care sector also resulted in 19 per cent of staff not being able to take annual leave to maintain the staff numbers needed over the last year.

For those currently looking to leave the sector, half (51 per cent) flag that higher pay is a key motivation, followed by not feeling valued by their current employer (50%), the need for a less stressful working environment (46 per cent) and a lack progression routes in their current role (42 per cent).

When asked what would encourage them to stay in the care sector, a manageable workload is one key factor. Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents currently looking to leave said that having enough staff to cover the work needed would motivate them to stay.

Social carers also note that feeling valued by their employer (55 per cent) and opportunities for career progression (40 per cent) would make them more likely to continue a career in care.

Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs, said: “Social care providers can make the most of this new interest by consciously tackling misconceptions of the industry and speaking to the needs of young people in particular.

"Highlighting the training opportunities and range of qualifications on offer to people pursuing a role in care will also help employers to hire staff who see care as a long-term career path.

“Our research also shows the undeniable pride that social carers have for their work, something that they want to see tangibly reflected by their employers. How a social care provider can make their staff feel valued will be unique to their workforce, whether it’s clearer progression opportunities, stronger relationships between carers and managers, or broader wellbeing support.

"Now is an opportunity to engage with staff and foster a people-first working culture where every social carer can thrive.”

Ben Harrison, Director at The Work Foundation, said: “For too long poor pay, limited options for progression and challenging working conditions have driven significant staff shortages and high levels of churn.

“This new Work Foundation and Totaljobs research highlights the window of opportunity we now have to tackle these issues, as more people than ever – including higher numbers of young people – are looking at social care as a viable career option.

“We must therefore seize this moment to strengthen and support the sector. The Government made a welcome commitment in its 2019 manifesto to deliver long-term reform for social care. As it does so in the months to come, this has to involve a sustainable funding programme, alongside a comprehensive workforce strategy that engages directly with providers and workers alike, and puts issues like pay, progression and workforce wellbeing at its heart.”