Adult social care workforce 

The adult social care (ASC) workforce, comprising over 1.5 million people, undertakes vitally important work that supports individuals and families in our society and promotes strong and inclusive communities. 

People with care and support needs should receive personalised and high-quality services to enable them to enjoy fulfilled lives in their own homes and communities. Consistent care should be available to all, irrespective of age, location, or circumstance.  

High quality care and support services are dependent upon a highly skilled and valued workforce, appropriately rewarded for their work and the vital impact that it has on people’s lives.  

The term workforce includes: 

  • employees working in statutory organisations with responsibility for ASC functions
  • those commissioned by councils and employed by care providers or through agencies to deliver care and support
  • those people employed via a direct payment i.e. personal assistants
  • care staff employed as part of any integrated arrangements with health.

While not part of the paid workforce, we also recognise the invaluable role that informal and unpaid carers and volunteers play in supporting people to live the lives that they want to live in their own homes.  

Social care is a major employer, contributing £40.5 billion annually to the national economy, making it a key driving force for reform and transformation. 

Through our joint work with Skills for Care, the LGA and ADASS are seeking to drive meaningful change in better supporting the social care workforce in five priority areas:   

  • Strategic workforce planning
  • Growing and developing the workforce
  • Enhancing the use of technology
  • Supporting wellbeing and positive mental health 
  • Building and enhancing social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workforce 
Strategic workforce planning

Councils, working with providers and other partners, need to anticipate and respond effectively to the changing health and care needs of the population over time. A local workforce plan sets a direction of travel for an area, supporting places to develop new models of care and recognising that adult social care can be a key enabler to recovery by offering quality jobs with good opportunities. A workforce plan will be underpinned by credible data and intelligence that is used to drive delivery strategies and will crucially be informed by those with experience of using services. 

Skills for Care ASC workforce data set 

Growing and developing the workforce 

If care and support continue to be delivered in the same way, workforce projections suggest that there would need to be a 32 per cent (520,000) increase in social care jobs to 2.17 million by 2035. In the current climate of high turnover of staff and vacancies, this is unrealistic.  We must reset the system to deliver care and support in a different way.  But to achieve this, we must improve the conditions and opportunities for the workforce to create rewarding and valued roles. In addition, we must improve the support to the wealth of unpaid carers and volunteers who provide invaluable support to the health and care system. 

Enhancing the use of technology

Technology cannot replace what we value most about our workforce. However, the development of new digital solutions and the adoption of technology at scale can help to address workforce challenges and improve workforce capacity.  We see technology and better working practices as a key enabler to developing a more modern and agile workforce, meeting care and support needs in more efficient and effective ways and improving outcomes for those we seek to support. 

Supporting wellbeing and positive mental health 

Efforts to support wellbeing should not just be seen as a short-term response to COVID-19, but a sustained commitment to tackle long-term drivers of poor staff experience, health and wellbeing. Social care employers and managers need to have access to tools that can support and enhance the mental health and wellbeing of themselves and their staff, both now and in the future. 

Central Bedfordshire Workforce wellbeing matters

Central Bedfordshire Council has identified peer and system-wide support as central to the wellbeing of adult social care staff. Central Bedfordshire worked with Bath Spa University to inform the development of the Bath Spa Healthier Outcomes at Work app and wellbeing toolkit, which was first launched in October 2019 and has been updated and enhanced to ensure its content is as helpful as possible for staff working during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is available to all staff in the Adult Social Care department.

The wellbeing app provides information on the signs of stress, ways to improve wellbeing and signposts to sources of further wellbeing assistance and local wellbeing events. It also provides staff with the opportunity to submit feedback to inform the council’s approach to wellbeing. Feedback can be submitted through the app, anonymously if preferred, and is sent to the Senior Management Team.

In addition to the app, Central Bedfordshire has developed a wellbeing programme which is available through a central learning system. The wellbeing programme includes bookable support sessions, reading material and on demand content covering topics such as sleep, self-care, and resilience, and access to the Employee Assistance Programme.

There are also courses targeted towards managers on supporting the wellbeing of staff. Wellbeing and resilience tools have also been developed for and shared with providers. Recent sessions run in partnership with the charity MIND include ‘Support for yourself and others as an Employee’, ‘Support for yourself and others as a manager’, and ‘See the signs’, and these have had a combined attendance of over 300 employees.

The council has also been working with Bedfordshire Wellbeing Service to develop sessions on trauma for frontline workers and has established a wellbeing group to address other wellbeing matters, including the impact of home working on wellbeing, and the introduction of mental health first aiders in the workplace.

Contact: Leire Agirre, Head of Safeguarding and Principal Social Worker


Isle of Wight provider wellbeing offer

Isle of Wight Council, with the Isle of Wight Care Partnership, Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group, Mountbatten Hospice and the Care Quality Commission, has created a set of wellbeing resources for care providers and social care staff to help them to process and manage the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the council has maintained regular contact with social care providers to ensure that they are aware of and understand developments in government guidance. As part of these relationships, the council identified a need for enhanced wellbeing support among providers, who have experienced significant stress during the pandemic, and some of whom have lost service users and staff to COVID-19.

The partners created a practice guide with strategies and techniques for wellbeing, which includes sections for employees and managers, and they meet fortnightly as an Ethics group to continue building on this work. The guide is divided into three tiers: tier one comprises self-care activities for calmness and resilience; tier two covers strategies for peer support and reflection; and tier three addresses signs of trauma, how to manage it, and when and where to refer staff to professional support services. Some of the self-care techniques included in the guide have been demonstrated in webinars to help people put this practical guidance into action, which has received very positive feedback. Resources specifically for unpaid carers are also in development.

More information: A rapid, multi-agency response to enhance care provider staff wellbeing and resilience during and post-lockdown

Contact: Simon Homes, Principal Social Worker for Adult Social Care

Design and Learning Centre - Kent County Council

It became clear that working through the pandemic was having a negative effect on the health and wellbeing of frontline care workers in Kent. Regular meetings with managers highlighted the concerns from workers and how stressful people were finding the changing COVID situation, not only in the workplace but at home too. The Design and Learning Centre (DLC) at Kent County Council decided to offer a number of easy to access, free support options for the sector. Read about the Kent County Council health and wellbeing support offer to the care sector in response to COVID-19.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Wellbeing Plan for adult care services

In recognition that staff on the frontline, responding to COVID, faced challenges around uncertainty, working arrangements and personal anxiety, Adult Care Services set out a Wellbeing Plan that complemented the council-wide offer and aimed to support this unique workforce through the difficult period.

Building and enhancing social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workforce

Addressing inequalities within the system that adversely impact upon specific groups in the workforce, including people with disabilities, women and people from BAME communities, should be at the heart of any future workforce strategy. The entire social care workforce must strive for equality of outcomes, focusing on freedom, independence, safeguarding, prevention and on good advice, so that we are able to support good lives, and give dignity and respect.