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Beyond Covid-19: the future of social care careers

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​The topic of recruitment challenges within the social care arena has long been documented. And while over the last few months employers have, understandably, been focused on ensuring that front line services keep running as the country battles Covid-19, the fact remains that the future of social care relies on effective talent management strategies to make sure that the right staff are not only recruited, but that they are also retained. So, as we slowly emerge from lockdown, services that were put on hold start once again, and more candidates enter the employment market, it’s perhaps more important than ever that employers have plans in place which encourage more people into the field so that the sector flourishes and – crucially – copes with the additional pressure it will undoubtedly face over the coming months and years. However this is not without its challenges as we explore in this week’s blog.

Overcoming skills shortages

Skills shortages within the social care arena have been prevalent for as long as we can remember. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, for example, the sector was already facing a dearth of talent with one in 10 social workers and one in 11 care worker roles reportedly unfilled. And with the Skills for Care estimating that an additional 650,000 to 950,000 new adult social care jobs would be required by 2035, it’s easy to see why action needs to be taken to counteract this talent deficit before services reach breaking point.

However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is no mean feat, employers have long called on the Government to develop strategies that address some of the fundamental challenges the UK faces in attracting both domestic and overseas talent. Yet, in what has been called by many as a huge blow to an already challenging situation, the Government’s new points based immigration system looks set to make attracting talent from overseas difficult – or impossible – in some cases. And this is certainly true for operators within the private sector where care home staff have been excluded from the Government’s fast track visa system. It’s perhaps no surprise then that at a time when 17% of care jobs are filled by foreign citizens, Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, which represents the largest private providers, believes this decision “has the potential to destabilise the sector even further with potentially disastrous consequences”.

Attracting and retaining talent for the future

Consequently, employers within the sector that have, historically, replied on overseas talent to plug domestic talent shortages, are now facing a situation where large proportions of their candidate pools may effectively be cut off in a post Brexit world. And while a government spokesperson was quoted recently saying that: “We want employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country. On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5bn of funding for social care in 2021-22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign.” The question we are left asking is ‘is it as simple as that?’.

Clearly, as the Government has alluded to, robust training and development strategies will be crucial to attract and retain talent, and this is certainly something that employers will need to invest in. However we would argue that looking beyond traditional talent pools is just as important. At a time when the rate of unemployment in the UK is set to be five to six per cent, or ten to 15 per cent (as quoted by Professor Brian Bell, chair of the Migration Advisory Committee), due in part to the unfortunate reality that Covid-19 has resulted in job losses across multiple sectors, employers within the care arena should look to candidates outside of their usual talent pools.

And as we blogged about recently, a real positive that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic is society’s new found appreciation of the valuable and rewarding work that professionals within the care sector do day in day out. The news has been awash with uplifting stories about the incredible work that social care professionals have done during Covid-19 – not just to ensure their patients are looked after from a clinical standpoint, but that their spirits also remain high - so employers would do well to capitalise on this at a time when the sector has been placed firmly in the spotlight for the right reasons.

Consequently, adapting talent attraction strategies so that they target a far wider demographic than perhaps they previously have, as well as focusing on creating compelling candidate value propositions and long term training and development initiatives will be crucial if employers are to have the right people in place to contend with the additional demand on their social care services in the future.

The future of social care careers

While we are by no means out of the woods when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, the actions employers take today to develop talent management strategies that truly demonstrate the fantastic opportunities available to those considering a career in the field will ensure that they have the right people in place, and at the right time, no matter what the future holds. And while it can’t be disputed that there won’t be challenges along the way, one thing is for sure. Working in the social care sector is one of the most rewarding careers out there. Demonstrating this to potential recruits in an effective way will ensure that the sector is safeguarded and can thrive in the future.

The WR Healthcare team is still providing the same high level of service as ever and many of the team are already back in the office. All of our consultants can be reached via their landlines, email, and social media profiles, so if you’re looking to for us to assist your firm with its talent management strategies, get in touch with one of us today.

To find out more, contact us today.