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Care sector in crisis: Coronavirus (Covid-19) recruitment issues

There are currently 122,000 vacancies in adult social care, with somewhere in the region of 9% of care worker roles unfilled1. With the outbreak of Covid-19, how is the sector being further threatened? 

The problems causing the crisis

In a white paper published by the Government at the tail-end of 2018, new restrictions on net migration were proposed that led to concerns about disruption to the flow of the low-skilled non-UK workforce2. It is estimated that 115,000 adult social care workers are recruited from other EU countries3, highlighting what a challenge Brexit poses4

The freedom of movement of people between the UK and other European member states, let alone the rest of the world, has now been put almost completely on hold5 as countries close their borders in response to coronavirus, further exacerbating the issue of recruitment from outside of the UK. 

On top of the issues caused by Brexit, and surrounding freedom of movement, there are several other contributing factors to the recruitment crisis in care that could be compounded further by the unfolding Covid-19 situation:

Staff retention is low

As the pool of available workers shrinks, for aforementioned reasons, and those to follow, staff retention is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy workforce. Findings conducted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) suggest that many workers are having to carry out unpaid overtime, and as many as 24% of nurses employed in adult social care are so under zero-hours contracts – undesirable to many.

As a result of Government guidelines around social distancing and self-isolation, this is likely to compound the issue of unpaid overtime6, as it adds yet another avenue for shrinkage in the workforce to occur. 

There are several things that employers can do to improve their staff retention, from introducing flexible working schemes and looking after employees’ wellbeing needs, to increasing the amount and quality of internal training opportunities. Read our guide to The Recruitment Crisis in Healthcare or contact us to speak to an expert for advice today. 

The sector has an ageing workforce

One quarter of all workers in the adult social care sector are over the age of 557. The issue of work-life balance that already exists in the industry is driving many to early retirement8. On top of this, older workers could be more susceptible to the virus, as data shows the death rate increases substantially in those aged 60 and above9 – meaning they could be more likely to self-isolate and stay away from work.

Applications for new recruits are falling

New applications for pre-registration nursing degrees fell for the second year in a row in 201810. Covid-19 has caused untold disruption to education across all sectors, as schools have been closed down11 and university campuses are largely deserted12. The Government has said it will impose strict limitations on the number of students that universities can recruit as a result of the outbreak13, which could further hamper the numbers of new applications. 

What’s being done?

The Government is taking steps to alleviate many of the problems outlined, whether that’s safeguarding the jobs of EU citizens currently living in the UK14, introducing the National Living Wage (NLW) leading to greater increases in pay15, or launching schemes to attract more young people to the industry16.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, a national supply distribution helpline has been established to help care establishments gain access to the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is required to help protect workers from the virus17. The Government has also set out specific COVID-19 guidance for the care sector, specifically around home care provision. 

Predictions for the future

If current trends persist, the healthcare sector will need to find an additional 650,000 staff by 203518

With the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 outbreak across all sectors, it is feared that this uncertainty could prompt employees or job seekers to re-evaluate their current choice of career, and explore new ones19 – a potential ticking time bomb for any industry, the care sector included. 

Additional funds for adult and social care have been promised by the Government through 2019/20, totalling £650m for local authorities. That said, this looks set to fall short of the health and social care funding gap, currently growing by 3.7% every year20 – before the fallout of Covid-19 has even been taken into account. 

For more information on how Covid-19 is impacting on recruitment in the UK’s care sector, contact us to speak to an expert today. For more information on the crisis, we’ve put together an informative healthcare recruitment guide that further outlines the issues.  

  1. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/articles/brexit-implications-health-social-care
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46613900
  3. https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/adult-social-care-workforce-data/Workforce-intelligence/publications/national-information/The-state-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-and-workforce-in-England.aspx
  4. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/articles/brexit-implications-health-social-care
  5. https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-european-borders-closed-in-response-to-covid-19-2020-4?r=US&IR=T
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/29/nhs-nurses-are-too-busy-to-care-for-patients-properly-research-shows
  7. https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/adult-social-care-workforce-data/Workforce-intelligence/publications/national-information/The-state-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-and-workforce-in-England.aspx
  8. https://archive.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/policy-and-research/education-training-and-workforce/supporting-an-ageing-medical-workforce
  9. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/
  10. https://www.health.org.uk/sites/default/files/upload/publications/2019/A Critical Moment_1.pdf
  11. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures/guidance-for-schools-about-temporarily-closing
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/mar/20/what-should-uk-students-do-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/29/government-set-to-cap-university-admissions-amid-covid-19-chaos
  14. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/articles/brexit-implications-health-social-care
  15. https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/adult-social-care-workforce-data/Workforce-intelligence/publications/national-information/The-state-of-the-adult-social-care-sector-and-workforce-in-England.aspx
  16. https://www.everydayisdifferent.com/home.aspx
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/20/care-workers-coronavirus-frontline
  18. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-03/closing-the-gap-health-care-workforce-full-report.pdf
  19. https://info.recruitics.com/blog/5-impacts-of-coronavirus-covid-19-on-recruitment-marketing
  20. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/budget-2018-what-it-means-health-and-social-care
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