The challenges of rising agency spend in Adult Social Care

Last year was tough.  Other industries re-opened, and candidates became harder to find.  Tired, stressed workers left the sector, looking for flexibility and responsibilities more commensurate with their pay – while many also took early retirement.

And so social care found itself with rising agency costs after extremely low spend during Covid.

It’s fair to say it was a very candidate-led market and one that meant recruitment agencies saw their revenue increase, a lot!

But 2023 led us back to high application volumes and the capacity challenges that brings.  Filled jobs are up across social care; so why with increased interest and high application levels is agency spend still so much?  And what can we do about it?

There will always be a need for temporary workers and good recruitment agencies that can support and plug gaps for providers, for example when occupancy rises fast.  However, there is often little planning for positive pass-through of temporary workers in an efficient way, leaving social care with a high cost to pay.

Who is responsible for ensuring temporary workers are used responsibly? 

Everyone!  From making temps feel comfortable to enable transfer to bank or permanent contracts to understanding the impact that every hour has on costs; from the CEO to front line staff – everyone has a role to play.

What can Providers do?  

There are lots of actions that Providers can take, not least to have a long-term workforce plan that will help to future proof their team.  Sadly, there is no overnight cure for high temp spend but there are plenty of opportunities that will have short, medium, and long -term impact.

For example, youth unemployment is currently 21% in London, and yet those aged 24 and under are one of the smallest demographics in adult social care.

Relying on agency workers is not sustainable with the economic challenges that Providers face. 

In March, The Guardian reported that a third of care homes in England had considered closing due to rising costs and more and more Providers are having to hand back contracts.  In many cases charitable and not for profit providers have found themselves in the unenviable position of eroding their reserves, something that is not sustainable in the long term, or even medium term for many!

The economic unsustainability is also paired with the social and qualitative unsustainability, with continuity of care significantly disrupted by teams with too many temps.  Who wants their loved ones most intimate needs being met by a succession of strangers?  And if they are a long-term temp, now is the time to say commit, or go.

If you would like to hear more about what your organisation can do to reduce temp spend in the short, medium and long term then join us for an online webinar on 6th September at 10 am when we will be sharing our six areas of focus with actions for all stakeholder groups.

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