Blog Posts - Lincolnshire Care Association


10/06/2024   Social Care Workforce: A Message to the Next Government

The General Election will take place on 4th July, and whoever forms the next government will face the challenge of overhauling the UK’s social care system.


In a series of three blog posts, Melanie Weatherley MBE, Chair of the Lincolnshire Care Association, will set out the challenges the next government will face and define her vision for what needs to be done to make UK social care fit for purpose.


Her first blog post addresses the challenges posed by the social care workforce and how people working in social care can be better recognised, motivated and rewarded.


Social care organisations in Lincolnshire, such as care homes, nursing homes and domiciliary care providers, face a wide array of challenges – but no-one can doubt that the thorniest problem they face has to do with their workforce.


Around 1.5 million people work in the adult social care sector in England – more than the number of people who work in the NHS. But around a quarter of this workforce is on zero-hours contracts.


Nationally the social care sector faces a number of long-standing and seemingly intractable workforce challenges:


  • high vacancy rates – Skills for Care estimates that around 10% of roles in adult social care were vacant in 2022/23, equivalent to approximately 152,000 vacancies.
  • rising demand
  • high staff turnover – Skills for Care estimates that around 390,000 people leave the sector every year
  • few opportunities for career progression
  • no standardisation of training and qualifications
  • low pay


It’s clear to everyone that something must be done to make adult social care sustainable in this country. Successive governments have promised a great deal but failed to grasp the nettle – so the next government really must get to work quickly.


As far as the workforce is concerned, I have three recommendations for the next Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.




As a nation we need to recognise of the importance of the social care workforce. Our workers don’t merely support the NHS by enabling people to be safely discharged from hospital; more importantly, they work with adults who may have a variety of challenges to make the most of their potential. Good social care workers allow service users and care home residents to live “gloriously ordinary lives”. Think for example of someone who has physical challenges but who is able to carry on working because a reliable care worker visits them every day to help them get ready. (Helping with clothes and make-up can sometimes be just as important as helping people with their medication.)


Fair pay


With greater recognition should come better remuneration for social care workers. In this country we expect people to undertake skilled, responsible roles in social care in return for little more than the minimum wage. By definition, this means they’re among the lowest paid workers in the country. And yet the work they do is crucially important, and we all might need their help one day.


The current government is in the process of introducing a new career pathway as set out in the White Paper ‘People at the Heart of Care’. Sadly, while there is funding available for training and for recording training, there’s no mention at all of paying care staff more as they move up the ladder. Care providers would love to reward their staff as they move along their career pathway, but the fees paid to care providers often don’t allow for this.




Can you believe that Florence Nightingale, the Victorian founder of modern nursing, didn’t believe that nurses should be regulated like other important professions? Times and attitudes have changed since her day, and nurses are now highly regulated, just like doctors, teachers and many others. Before we can improve the recognition of care workers as professionals, we probably have to regulate their profession in the same way as nurses, doctors and teachers.


There are lots of people who don’t agree with this, and I appreciate that achieving regulation for the sector might be difficult in the short term. But we have a large workforce and a level of staff turnover which is far too high; even if registration of the whole profession might have to be filed under “too difficult” for now, we need to take steps towards achieving this goal at some point. Perhaps we could start with Registered Care Managers and move forward from there.


It's almost five years since Boris Johnson’s landslide General Election victory in 2019, which means we will all soon have the opportunity to cast our ballot and choose a new government. Whatever colour government we get, I will be working hard to make sure that our demands and recommendations for improving the adult social care sector are heard in the corridors of power.