How to Attract and Retain the Social Care Workforce in Poole

Emily Rosenorn-Lanng
Professor Lee-Ann Fenge
24th May 2015

Social care is a vital sector that provides support and care to people with various needs, such as older people, people with disabilities, people with mental health problems, and people with substance misuse issues. Social care workers play a key role in improving the quality of life and well-being of these people, as well as their families and carers. However, social care is also a sector that faces many challenges and pressures, such as policy changes, funding cuts, demographic shifts, increasing demand, and workforce shortages.

That’s why the Borough of Poole has commissioned an evaluation of the barriers and incentives to joining the social care workforce in the conurbation. The evaluation was conducted by an independent research team from Bournemouth University, who collected data and feedback from different segments of the local population, such as young people, teachers, Job Centre Plus claimants and advisors, social care employers and employees. The evaluation report provides a detailed analysis of the factors that influence the recruitment and retention of the social care workforce in Poole, as well as recommendations for future workforce development.

The evaluation report highlights some of the barriers to social care employment, such as:

  • A key disincentive is low pay in the sector. Low pay is linked to low status and may prevent individuals considering unqualified social care work as a long term career option. In the questionnaire responses, participants often highlight consideration of qualified positions such as social worker or nurse, but show less interest in unqualified care work roles. Teachers report that low pay (33%) is a factor which prevents them from promoting social care as a career.
  • Lack of understanding of the range of employment opportunities available within the care sector for specific groups. Improving the quality of information and guidance available to young people and teachers, as well as Job Centre Plus claimants and advisors, may help to raise awareness and interest in social care employment. Teachers perceive a number of barriers to recommending social care as an employment route including low pay and lack of progression opportunities, negative media coverage and lack of information about social care employment. Job Centre Plus claimants and advisors suggest that they are not well informed about the opportunities in the sector despite reporting being well informed about the opportunities in the sector.
  • Negative perceptions and low status of social care work: There is a need to consider new ways of recruiting potential applicants into care work by challenging negative perceptions and promoting care work in a more positive light. Negative media representations of the care sector are perceived as a further barrier to those seeking employment, particularly with regards to the low status given to it. Employers in this study highlighted difficulties in recruiting to care posts despite using media and recruitment fairs.
  • Increasing complexity of the work without adequate remuneration: Shifts in eligibility criteria mean that the demographic within both care homes and the community has shifted to those with only the most complex needs. As a result the nature of the work is complex and demanding yet pay does not reflect the nature of the task.
  • The impact of zero hours contracts: The financial culture of cost reduction has had an impact on pay and conditions, particularly in terms of zero hours contracts, lack of paid travel expenses which act as a disincentive for the workforce.
  • Recruiting staff with the necessary skills and willingness to undertake training. Although it is increasingly recognised that the caring task is becoming more complex resulting in a need for increased training, this evaluation suggests that the emphasis on increased skills and training for care staff has also resulted in some workers leaving due to the increased academic demands now required.
  • Staff perceptions of vulnerability linked to risk and safeguarding. This evaluation has found that employers and employees are anxious about the culture of increasing regulation and review within the sector which has resulted in increased recording requirements. Care staff can feel vulnerable to allegations made by residents/clients.
  • Negative perceptions about the suitability of young people in the workforce. Although nationally it is recognised that young people are an important source for the future social care workforce, both employers and some care staff in this sample raised concerns about the reliability and commitment of young people within the workforce.

The evaluation report also highlights some of the incentives to social care employment, such as:

  • Lessons to be learnt from public sector employment: Although issues related to the recruitment and retention of staff are common across the sector, this evaluation has shown that the experience of local authority (LA) employers and staff contrasts greatly with the experience of private sector staff and employers. In particular employment in the public sector (LA) offers certain incentives to staff including entitlements to annual leave, training within work hours, stable hours of employment, and paid sick leave.
  • Opportunities for training and qualifications: Due to the increasingly complex nature of social care work, training and opportunities for qualifications which enhance career progression may act as an incentive for some to see social care as a career route rather than just a job. This may include opportunities for specialist knowledge and skills related to client’s needs, but also opportunities to undertake leadership development.
  • Career pathways for apprenticeships: Apprenticeships which clearly map on to structured career progression pathways may improve the attractiveness of social care as a career.
  • Positive media reporting: Positively promoting social care as a career may help to develop increased interest from specific groups. A key motivating feature in the feedback across all sample groups was the positive aspect of ‘helping and supporting others’. This element could be developed and stressed more in terms of an employment route which is underpinned by key values of ‘humanised ’care and the ability to make a difference in other peoples’ lives.
  • Developing remuneration which reflects the complexity of care work. Poor pay is recognised as a disincentive to employment in the care sector, and nationally action needs to be taken to ensure that pay levels reflect the knowledge and skills required for the increasing complexity of care roles.

The evaluation report also acknowledges some limitations of the research, such as the small sample size, the use of self-report data, and the need for further research to explore the impact of workforce development initiatives.

If you are interested in reading more about this evaluation report, you can find it [here]. You will find more information on the aims, methods, findings, and recommendations of this research project.

If you are a social care employer, employee, or potential applicant, or if you are involved in supporting or assessing social care workforce development, you may find this report useful and relevant for your own practice development. You may also want to consider how to address the barriers and incentives to joining the social care workforce in Poole, and how to promote social care as a rewarding and fulfilling career.

Meet the author(s)

Emily Rosenorn-Lanng

Emily Rosenorn-Lanng is a researcher and project manager at the National Centre for Cross Disciplinary Social Work (NCCDSW) at Bournemouth University. She has over 19 years of experience in conducting and managing various research projects in health and social care, local government, tourism and heritage sectors. She specialises in quantitative research methods, game-based learning, generative AI, cybersecurity, and accessibility. She is also pursuing a part-time PhD in game-based learning in Cyber Security education. She has published several research papers and reports on topics such as mental capacity, cyber fraud, child mortality, leadership development, and more. She has also participated in the InnovateUK cyberasap program, a pre-accelerator for cyber security start-ups.
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Professor Lee-Ann Fenge

Director of the Centre for Seldom Heard Voices
Lee-Ann is Professor of Social Care in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences. She is a Registered Social Worker and has always been committed to advancing the professional evidence base of social care practitioners.
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