We review the results from Cohesion’s social care candidate survey each year, completed by thousands of applicants to care positions. When we looked at the results in 2023, one of the notable concerns, which is raised year on year and is supported by sector workforce data, surrounds a lack of diversity working in care – including those under 25 and men.
The Skills for Care Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set discloses a notable imbalance in age distribution, with fewer than 10% of the workforce comprising individuals under the age of 25, and only 18% of the people identifying as male. Teamed with longstanding workforce challenges that the sector faces, and with over 152,000 vacancies on any day, the importance of greater diversity is further amplified.
Here’s what we found in the demographics of our survey respondents last year…
An increase in survey responses from 26-35 year old females in care, but a declining number of 19 – 25 year olds.
A slow rise in responses from males (26% in 2022 compared to 20% in 2018) and the highest response increases by 36 – 45-year-old males. The primary concern for this target group is that care jobs are seen as unskilled jobs with poor prospects.
As we plan our strategies for the year ahead, what should we be thinking about as we continue to tackle the imbalance of diversity in our workforce – whether that be bringing in more young people, or attracting more men to come and see what we’re all about?
Educational collaboration. We believe there is a benefit to having better links between Further Education and Social Care Providers to allow for greater age diversity. There is an opportunity for positive pass-through even where the end goal of a young person might be working in a different sector in the future – such as Allied Health or Medical roles. Where are your local schools, colleges, and universities – and who in your organisation is best to form connections?
Leadership diversity. We have great leaders in care from a range of different backgrounds. We must share stories of development to inspire the workforce of tomorrow. Have you identified which of your managers and directors have a career story to tell – and how are they telling that very story to your prospective applicants?
Continuous Professional Development. We must continue to emphasize the importance of continuous professional development. The first phase of the Care Worker Pathway has recently been published which includes funding for new qualifications and apprenticeships, as well as subsidised training places. Keeping a close eye on how these plans come to fruition will allow us to plan out our role as employers. In the meantime, what learning and development discussions are you having with new starters joining your organisation?
Public Awareness. Media often focuses on the bad news, and our good news stories often take a back seat. There continues to be misconceptions about what it means to work in care. Better awareness and advocacy, through sites such as Care & Support Jobs and social media will be as important as ever. Are you identifying social media champions in your organisation who can help you to get your positive news messages heard by peers?
Community engagement and collaboration. Care homes and services sit at the heart of our communities. Yet most people have never stepped inside a care home or know that the house in their own street is home to people living in a Supported Living environment. Care Home Open Week (which is not just for Care Homes!) takes place each summer and can provide a valuable platform to get involved. How do you collaborate with community organisations, particularly those representing underrepresented groups?
Cultivating greater diversity across any sector does not happen overnight – but aiming for incremental gains is key. The need to bridge the diversity gap within the adult social care workforce demands a comprehensive and strategic approach, and it is just as apparent today as it has been for many years.
By fostering collaboration, dispelling misconceptions, and championing inclusivity, we can collectively work towards a more diverse, vibrant, and resilient social care sector for the future.