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Care sector vacancies soar, while applications slump

Poor morale and concerns over mandatory vaccinations mean that the care sector is struggling to keep roles filled.

According to statistics from jobs site Indeed, there has been an 88% increase in the number of jobs advertised in the sector, but a 19% drop in candidate applications.

This comes at a time when one in five (21%) public sector workers are already actively considering quitting their jobs, according to a new poll by YouGov for the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

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For workers in health and social care who were considering quitting, 68% said so because they felt undervalued.

Sharon Benson, HR director at Sunrise Senior Living UK, warned that the health and social care sector will struggle to fill vacancies.

“If you look at the top ten skill shortages in the UK, four of them are within a care home. Nurses, carers, cleaners and housekeepers, and chefs and cooks.

“When the pandemic hit, lots of sectors closed – and we had plenty of choice [of workers]. Now those sectors have opened, and they pay more.

This year, the government imposed a pay freeze on most public sector staff, and although the NHS will be exempt with a 3% rise, this is likely to be outstripped by inflation.

“We’re competing against a really challenging market, when there’s been such pent-up demand in those other sectors.”

The staff turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 28.5% in 2020/21.

To compound matters, Indeed predicts that 15% of the workforce in the healthcare sector will leave it as a result of mandatory vaccination programmes.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea warned that such programmes would further reduce availability and standards of care.

She said: “This move is damaging a sector already on its knees and undermining trust in the vaccine. Vaccine-hesitant staff must be offered reassurance and persuasion, not threats and ultimatums.

“Instead of encouraging much-needed recruitment into care, the government is actively driving experienced staff away.”

Though Sunrise has managed to mitigate the worst of this effect with an education programme, resource-stretched public services are likely to be hit harder.

According to the British Medical Journal, up to 70,000 care workers might leave because of the vaccine programme, yet according to ONS statistics, the health and social work sector now has 172,000 vacancies.

This means it has the second highest ratio of vacancies per 100 employee jobs, at 4.2, behind only accommodation and food services (which has leapt to 5.9,) and the information and communication sector (4.0.)

Sunrise's Benson added: “As an HR director, when some people say there’s a recruitment challenge, my first port of call is that we have a retention challenge.

“Unless you fix the systemic reasons why people want to leave, you can go on recruiting and recruiting, but they won’t stay unless you understand what motivates people to want to stay.

“If you are growing your business massively, and need to bring in loads of new talent, that’s fair enough. If you aren’t on a massive growth trajectory, and you need to hire lots of people, then I think strategically you aren’t having a recruitment problem, you’re having a retention challenge.”