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Key findings

Workforce and sector size

  • An estimated 17,900 organisations were involved in providing or organising adult social care in England as at 2021/22. Those services were delivered in an estimated 39,000 establishments. There were also 65,000 individuals employing their own staff.

  • The total number of adult social care posts in 2021/22 was 1.79m. 1.62m of these posts were filled by a person (filled posts) and 165,000 were posts that employers were actively seeking to recruit somebody to (vacancies).

  • The adult social care sector was estimated to contribute £51.5 billion gross value added (GVA) per annum to the economy in England (up 2% from 2020/21).

Recent trends – workforce supply and demand

  • The total number of posts in adult social care in England as at 2021/22 was 1.79 million (up 0.3% from 2020/21). Of these posts, 1.62m were currently filled by a person (filled posts) and 165,000 were posts that employers were actively seeking to recruit somebody to (vacancies).

  • Skills for Care workforce estimates show a decrease in the number of filled posts in 2021/22. Overall, the decrease was around 3% (50,000 posts).

  • The vacancy rate has risen over the same period to the highest rate since records began in 2012/13. The number of vacancies increased by 52% in 2021/22 by 55,000 to 165,000 vacant posts. The vacancy rate in 2021/22 was 10.7%.

  • This shows that the decrease in filled posts is due to recruitment and retention difficulties in the sector rather than a decrease in demand. Employers have not been able to recruit and keep all the staff they need. As a result, an increasing number of posts remain vacant.

  • The starter rate has fallen from 37.3% in 2018/19 to 30.8% in 2021/22. The turnover rate these periods remained at a similar level (29% in 2021/22). Therefore, around the same proportion of people are leaving their roles, but there are fewer people replacing them.

  • The UK vacancy rate has increased rapidly in the past year. This increase has created competition for staff and contributed to the increase in the adult social care vacancy rate over the same period.

  • During 2022, following the relaxation of rules regarding testing and isolation, sickness rates have begun to decrease towards pre-pandemic levels (6.2 days as at August 2022 compared to 4.6 days in 2019/20).

Workforce characteristics

  • The adult social care workforce continued to be made up of around 82% female workers, the average age was 45 (with 28% aged 55 and over), 23% of the workforce had black, Asian and minority ethnicity and 16% had a non-British nationality.

  • Data collected in the ASC-WDS since care workers were added to the shortage occupation list showed more people were arriving in the UK to take up adult social care jobs. In 2022, between February and August, 11% of workers new to their role within the year had also arrived in the UK within the year. This was greater than the equivalent period in 2021 (4%) and 2020 (2%).

  • Almost a quarter of the adult social care workforce (24%, or 358,000 filled posts) were employed on zero-hours contracts.

  • In April 2021, the NLW rose from £8.72 to £8.91 (2.2% in nominal terms). This increase contributed to a 5.4% increase in the median nominal care worker hourly rate from March 2021 to March 2022. This was the second highest increase over the recorded period.

  • The median hourly rate for care workers decreased, in real terms, by 1.5% between March 2021 and March 2022. This compares to an average increase of 1.8% per year since September 2012. This decrease was driven by the high cost of living in 2021/22 with inflation rising to 7.0%.

  • Analysis of workforce data from the ASC-WDS shows that there were differences in diversity between job roles. Notably, there were proportionally more males and more white people in senior roles than front line roles. The root cause of this difference can’t be ascertained from ASC-WDS data alone.

  • Our forecasts show that if the number of adult social care posts grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population between 2021 and 2035, an increase of 27% (480,000 extra posts) would be required by 2035.

  • Employers with favourable workforce metrics (such as high levels of learning and development), on average, had better outcomes (lower staff turnover and/or high CQC ratings).

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